Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wonder Wheel

Totally awesome weekend.

It started on Friday when Bambina received a personal note from none other than her #2 hero, Dan Zanes. (He's #2 behind his former guitarist Barbara, who so captivates Bambina that we must call her Barbara for days on end while she shreds on her ukulele and acoustic guitar. A guitar that is precisely three times her body weight but no matter to her). How cool is it that he wrote her a little handwritten note in reply to her fan letter to him? I will kiss DZ when I see him next for making my kid so inordinately happy beyond her imaginings. Beyond the coolness factor, that is some seriously retail fan service, is all I can say.

Dan Zanes wrote a song called "Wonder Wheel" about the ferris wheel at Coney Island. It's also about life and all the ups and downs that go with it. But mostly, in my mind, it's about the fact that you're never on the wheel alone; that you can be at the highest or lowest point, have the greatest vista or most restricted view, but what matters is that everywhere you look you have a friend in all the places that matter.

Like on Saturday when we did an early AM drive to our old college to do a meet-halfway day with college friends and their kids. It was pretty damn cool to have Bambina see the place where my life and most treasured friendships as I know them were formed.

She, of course, couldn't have cared less.

She was oblivious to my announcements of, "...and this is where Mama used to work on campus!" (I sagely left out the tour of "and this is where Mama puked her guts out after drinking waaay too much jagermeister" and "this is where Mama did the walk of shame after a night or three with the person you now know as 'Uncle Jim' and/or 'cousin' Sally's Daddy")... The grown-ups had these grand plans to take the kids on a campus walk, a stroll in the arboretum, blah blah blah. Bambina and the other kids just wanted to a) play ball on the green and b) go to the beach near campus. So we did, had a fabulous time, all the while laughing that we brought our kids to our alma mater only to take them places we never went and to do things we never did while there.

I, of course, did my obligatory UPF 50+ beach attire for 15 minutes at the ocean and then retired to a shady area to avoid another round of skin flayings courtesy of Dr. Mohs. But, regardless, it was cool. To see and be seen by friends. To actually meet their kids after this crazy year. To confirm that there is something singularly life-affirming about spending even an insane day in the company of kids, your own and those of the friends you love. (I take a dim view of spending a day with "kids" in the general public sense of those that might be behind me on a plane or at the movies. I'm talking strictly about kids you just love right away because they belong to people you love).

Then today we went to the swan boats in the public gardens with another family of friends. Another couple whose kids I had not yet met. Total fun. Or, as their mom and I were saying, total fun for us; but not for people without kids. People without kids would be hating this trip and hating us, but we were having a great time. Especially since all our kids seemed to be on the exact same "I'm hungry/tired/cranky" whine schedule. One cool part of the day was when Bambina saw our friends' son chasing pigeons and decided she wanted to try it. Now, Bambina is not into boys these days. She finds them annoying and loud and chaotic. But we all have something to learn from each other, and I was so psyched to see her realize that chasing pigeons looked like fun, because I know it is not an activity that she herself would ever have conceived of or deemed at all worth a look. So she asked me to chase pigeons with her. Nota bene that she did not go to the boy and play with him. That sh*t ain't happenin' with Bambina. As evidence, she lists the names of her girl friends and then says, "and no boys except Dada."
Dada hopes this sentiment continues until she is 44.
Dada will be very sad in about 10 years.
Unless she turns out to be lesbian, in which case he will rejoice.

But I digress as usual. It was so great to see Bambina do something so un-Bambina-like by virtue of seeing a boy do it, because I think there is a certain spunk to some young boys that girls can benefit from. And this kid's got it in spades, as does his big sister. So amen for breaking down gender barriers. Or whatever chasing pigeons means in the larger psychosocial sense of the gender construct. Or something.

Later in the day we went to Bambina's preschool building, which is in a community center. to play in her playground. She decided that she absolutely had to investigate every floor of the building via elevator. So we pressed 2, got off and looked around, got back on; pressed 3, got off, looked around, got back on; etc etc. She was in heaven. And so was I, because of what she said when she had the idea about the elevator. I'm pretty sure I've only said the words to her once or twice, so to hear her internalize it and use it really was awesome. I asked her, "What is it that we're going to do on all these floors?" She replied, "Let's just see where life takes us, Mama."

Which really sums up the beauty of this totally ordinary and yet extraordinary weekend: you can't always have a plan; and even if you do, God might laugh at you as your kids run for the wiffle ball. As "the love of your life" leaves you for another. As you get that scary diagnosis. As your kids go about the business of becoming themselves rather than the mini-mes you decided they would be. As the world refuses to stay just the way you like it for the benefit of your own comfort level.

Yes indeed. God laughs at plans, whether pedestrian or profound. So you might as well take your daughter's hand, breathe in her sense of faith and wonder, press the "UP" button--and see where life takes you.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Reading Room

As you know, due to my GVH and the medications for it, I spend a wee bit more time "in the facilities" lately than I usually have in the past. With any luck, I'll be off these meds by next year and things will return to normal. So, with many months to go in my Cavalcade of Commodes, I figured I should make good use of the time. So I went to the library (without Bambina; something I realized I have not done alone since she came home three years ago) to get myself some good reading.

Okay. So, I forgot that at the library you probably need to have some idea of what you are looking for before you get there. Unlike, nothing in the building popped up in front of me to recommend books based on those I'd already read. And then when I thought of what I might like to read, I realized that the books don't just magically appear in front of you; you have to go looking for the call number and then go looking for the book. How quaint! But since I couldn't think off the top of my head what I might like to read I just decided to browse and grab books based on whatever criteria hit me in the moment. Such as, sadly, "Oooh--that looks like some interesting binding!" or "Oh look! Such a small, cute book!"

By total happenstance, I ended up with some good ones. I'm reading them simultaneously for reasons of practicality: what you might want to read while sitting on the pot at 3pm might not be your cup of tea while sitting at 2am. The latter requires a lighter read due to fatigue and a desire to perhaps get back to sleep without feeling like you're abandoning a great story. Therefore, I give you:

ThingsIOverheardWhileTalkingtoMyself by Alan Alda.

After nearly dying from an intestinal obstruction on a mountain in Chile, Alda set out to give his second chance at life new meaning. This book is a collection of old speeches and essays, but it's also quite funny and rather philosophical. And, for my purposes, each chapter is a story in itself which makes it easy to put down at 3am.

Next up is an absolutely hilarious and awesome book called The Year Of Living Biblically: One Man's Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible I can't really do it justice, so I'll leave it to Publishers Weekly:
What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs (The Know-It-All). He didn't just keep the Bible's better-known moral laws (being honest, tithing to charity and trying to curb his lust), but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day. (He considered some rules, such as killing magicians, too legally questionable to uphold.) In his attempts at living the Bible to the letter, Jacobs hits the road in highly entertaining fashion to meet other literalists, including Samaritans in Israel, snake handlers in Appalachia, Amish in Lancaster County, Pa., and biblical creationists in Kentucky. Throughout his journey, Jacobs comes across as a generous and thoughtful (and, yes, slightly neurotic) participant observer, lacing his story with absurdly funny cultural commentary as well as nuanced insights into the impossible task of biblical literalism.
Oh, it's good stuff.

Next up, Thirteen Stories by Eudora Welty. I've always wondered how I've managed to get to 36 without reading Welty. I'm still deciding if she's my speed, but I do have to give her credit for some humorous, nuanced writing with a Southern flavor. One of my favorite lines involves a discussion of a not-too-bright woman who, as one character says, "could sit and ponder all day on how the little tail of the 'C' got through the 'L' in a Coca-Cola sign."

Another book I've just read for a recently-joined book club is Black Dog of Fate: An American Uncovers His Armenian Past by Peter Balakian.
This is actually a rather funny book about the author's childhood in New Jersey, as a son and grandson of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. And if you feel any doubt that it was a genocide, just read this book. He writes about growing up in a Jewish neighborhood and then moving with his family to the suburbs, as the family straddles their two worlds: being intentionally non-ethnically suburban "American" in the '60's, while dealing with the ghosts of a terrible, unspeakable tragedy that eradicated their history, people and homeland. It's a very enjoyable, funny, interesting, and heartbreaking story. And when you hear the recollections of his aunt and grandmother on what happened in Turkey, you will never doubt that the Armenians were systematically and prejudicially eliminated as a people.

I'm also in the middle of Kurt Vonnegut's In Retrospect. I can't say I think these are his best writings but, being Vonnegut, they are still better than most other people's best stuff. He definitely comes across as batshit crazy, but all for the reader's benefit. One essay is actually a letter home to his family during WWII, after being released from POW captivity. It shines a little bit of light on him as a person as well as a writer, when you realize what he went through in the war. The rest of the writings are going to be either awesome or dire, depending on your own personal capacity for all things Vonnegut. I'm liking it so far, but that's because I'm just accepting him for who he was and, even if I'm not loving the story, recognizing that it's still incredibly well-written.

And with that, I will now try to get some sleep. Happy reading, wherever you may open your book.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Kiss is Still A Kiss

Check out this commercial that was pulled off the air by HeinzUK after a measly 200 complaints about its indecency:

(As an indication of what this post is about, the movie is 100% totally safe for work)

Hello?! I think that is one of the funniest commercials I've seen in a long time. And kind of witty too, non? But it's indecent because two guys innocuously kiss. Because all those commercials featuring heteros giving goodbye kisses are also pulled off the air after offending our finely calibrated moral compasses, right? Come on. It's just a kiss!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Project Michelle

That's a link to Project Michelle (via Angry Asian Man), a website dedicated to finding a stem cell donor for a 26 year-old woman who has only weeks left without a transplant. I'm here only because I had a match. But consider that out of the more than 8,000 matches for me on the national database, it came down to *4* people who were available on the short timeframe I needed to stay alive. That's a wee bit scary if you think about it statistically. Michelle currently has no matches. So if you or someone you know has not yet registered, now might be a good time.

Stifler's Mother

I love being back out among The People. Even if it's only at the doctor's office. First I went to phlebotomy where I finally had a lady who got my vein first time. At this point my veins have been so overused that they are actually more scar tissue than vein, so while finding one is easy, getting a needle through its exoskeleton is well-nigh impossible. So "Betty" gets my vein first time. On the last of 16 vials it starts to dry up and we've got to make it work. So she jimmies the needle or something, and not only does the blood mercifully spurt into the vial and fill it up, it also explodes all over the table, over her clothes, and all over her entire work area. She and the other phlebotomist standing nearby looked at me with great concern, and for whatever reason I just completely burst out laughing hysterically. It was a total bloodbath, and I could not have found it funnier. Especially since not a single drop landed on my clothes. You go ahead and figure out that blood spatter analysis, because I have no idea how it missed me but hit everything else in its path.

Next up, after seeing my doctor, was my periodic post-transplant pulmonary function test (to make sure the chemo and various drugs have not messed with my lung function). The tech doing the test (whom we'll call Stifler) turned what is a 15 minute process into 45 because he not only wanted to review my results with me after each leg of the test, but he also wanted to just shoot the breeze about anything and everything. Now, bear in mind that this test involves me having my mouth on a hose about the width of a mack truck tail pipe. Not a whole lot of conversation goin' on from my end. But Stiffler wants to know how my transplant went, did I find religion, what meds am I on, etc. He was perfectly personable in a totally dorky and awkward way, but I was thinking the whole time, "hello!?! If I answer your question, I'll have to interrupt the test!" And it was already 4:30 in the afternoon after a night when I'd had 2 hours of sleep, so I just really wanted to get home. But on he went to beat the band.

So what did I find out? Well, you will be interested to know that Stifler has a colostomy bag, is Jewish, grew up in a relatively happy home except for his mom who drank, and totally loves quality pizza. This from 45 minutes of me breathing in, holding my breath, breathing out, breathing in, holding my breath, blowing air out fast, blowing air out slow and steady. If only I could have extended the test to a full hour I might have gotten his ATM pin number. Damn!

I guess I should feel his pain. He spends 8-10 hours a day exhorting various people to "breathe out! hold it! keep going! just another few seconds! Aaaaaaaand....stop." He must really long for some actual conversation with actual humans (believe me, I know how he feels). And, by the nature of the beast (ie, aforementioned mack truck tail pipe), if the conversation is going to happen he's going to have to do the talking, which I completely respect. All I'm sayin' is that it's a pretty big leap from "So, what meds are you on?" to "yeah, I have a colostomy bag and it's a challenge." Especially because I was being careful to say stuff like, "Well, I have GVH, so I've got some 'gut involvement'," rather than saying, "I have periodic bouts of raging diarrhea" to a total stranger. I'm giving Stifler a break, however, simply because he kind of made my day with his wildly inappropriate Stiflerness. It's been waaay too long since I've had such a truly bizarre experience, and I'm deeming it my Official Welcome Back into the insanity of life among humans.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nothin' Doin'

I've got nothin for ya. I'm out of inspiration. I can't seem to make myself care about FISA, offshore drilling, or even John McCain's head band-aids at the moment. Nothin'.

I can't even make myself care about links, which are my lowest-common-denominator vehicle for pretending I've posted something to this blog. ;) I've been rather busy doing adoption stuff for Baby Sister. Because we've moved we have to re-do our home study. Which is no small feat considering the breadth and depth of the information we have to provide to the good people at Homeland Security. It involves no fewer than 45 separate documents, notarized and submitted with three copies.

You'd think getting a copy of a birth certificate, marriage license or some other document would be easy. Not so fast! This is one area where I am certain the United States lags behind other developed nations. Consider that I contacted Scotland by phone, ordered a certified copy of my birth certificate, gave them my credit card number, and had my copy in 5 days. From Scotland. Consider that I requested the BBDD's certificate from the very state in which we live nine days ago. And still we wait for it to arrive.

Consider that one can only request a marriage license copy by enclosing--I shit you not--a MONEY ORDER. A money order?! Who the hell uses money orders?! I had to sit down and think about where one might acquire one of those before I remembered needing one in junior high school to join the Duran Duran fan club, and took myself to the post office. A money order. So retro! And to be submitted with a letter via the US postal service! No online orders, no faxes, no credit cards. Awesome. So Eighties!

And then we get to the immigration forms (all of this paperwork is for USCIS, not for China. China has everything they need from us. All of this rigmarole is simply to get a form that gives us permission to bring a child into the country. Thank god our borders are being so assiduously defended from infants). We have to fill out the new form based on the new Hague Conventions. Which is no big deal except for the fact that I have to now fill in all my naturalization information (since I'm a naturalized citizen). But they want me to find my naturalization certificate and provide the certificate number, my A number (the number you get when you enter the country), and essentially regurgitate every piece of information on that certificate to them. But here's the thing: I got that certificate FROM THEM. Don't they have that on file? Can't they look up my social security number and name and find all that info? Why do I have to give it all back to them from a document they gave to ME? Is this the best use of anyone's time? My bet is that they have 12 different non-integrated database systems that do not speak to each other and have no way of knowing who the hell I am, even if they did approve me in 1981. That, or they don't feel like looking anything up.

Which brings us to the Hague-required police clearances. I have to get a clearance from every jurisdiction in which I've lived since the age of 18 to prove that I have not engaged in sexual misconduct with a child during that time. Seriously. I do understand why it's important that children not be placed with people who have a history of child sexual abuse anywhere in the world. I do understand. I'm just chafing under the requirement that I contact Scotland--again--because I spent 9 months there as a freshman in college. When I contacted the bureau over there, they asked for my 5 previous addresses. None in Scotland. Okay. What was your address while in Scotland? A college dorm. Well, that's not really an address. I know, but what can I do? I need a form from you all saying that I did not go on some wild child sex bender between 1990 and 1991 while in the confines of your fair country. So they're going to see what they can do, but they really have no sense of what the hell I'm asking for. Like, you were a student here at a college dorm for less than a year and you need a letter saying that by British records you are not a child molester? Yeah. Okay. We'll get that right in the post to you. I just hope it's what USCIS considers "official" enough.

All of which is to say, bitching aside, that it's a process I'm of course committed to doing because it's how my daughter will get to be my daughter. So of course my bellyaching is just that. But the process does speak to a paucity of imagination in the realm of vital records management in America and the challenges of accessing (what the USCIS considers vital) records of other countries. It also gives the lie to annoying statements (such as this rather racist one highlighted by Ken over at Popehat: popehat ) that adopting internationally is "the latest fad" and "fashionable" or that people do it for larks. No one in her right mind would submit to the level of investigation, both via paperwork and people coming to your home and writing reports about your parenting/housekeeping and general demeanor, just for a quick laugh. To the point that, for anyone who has gone through the adoption process, comments about fads and fashion are so offensive as to be obscene.

But all annoyance aside, it also reminded me, in a funny moment, of what I said last time around with Bambina: as bad as the process is, I'll take it over an episiotomy any day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Come Monday...

Two more days of Bambina Vacation till camp starts on Monday. I'm really looking forward to it on two levels. First, on a parental level, because I know she gets so much benefit from being around other kids--and camp this year includes swimming lessons, which are best left to the pros rather than the Mama; and secondly, on a selfish level, because I have been missing those 4 hours in the morning to do grown-up stuff like think for a minute in silence, speak without interruption, and conduct personal grooming activities in more than 4 minutes.

But this vacation has been total fun. We hung out in Boston.

We visited museums.

We installed our Obama For President lawn sign.
Bambina insists it says, "Welcome, Barack Obama, to Our House!"

We played on our moon bounce and in our paddling pool. We planted basil, watermelon and tomato plants (well, she and the BBDD did, since gardening is still on the list of dangerous fungal-producing activities designed to kill transplant survivors). We drew about 100 works of art. Created our own paper dolls and dress-up game. Wrote some songs, mostly about going to the beach, visiting the Traveling Wilburys, and how her stuffed sheep is so stinky. (Bambina has a "songwriting notebook" in which she writes pages and pages of "La La La Las" while singing her own songs). We went grocery shopping, which is not a vacation activity per se, but it was total fun. My previous grocery outings with Bambina occurred when she was 2 years old, and those were exercises in sprinting through the store before a meltdown, naptime, or some other reason why the last 15 minutes of the trip would be the definition of stress. Now that she's 4, she just loves to help and loves pretending to read the labels and loves having some autonomy about what we buy. (By autonomy I mean I give her two kinds of yogurt and she picks which one she wants). To be sure, we do end up with about $10 worth of stuff I wouldn't have purchased without her present, but it's worth it to have her along and to see her sense of accomplishment when the lady rings up "her" purchases.

Most importantly this vacation, we had a few playdates. Bambina has missed out on playdates over the past year because I couldn't take her and the BBDD works during the day. So a lot of the kids in her preschool have connections outside of the classroom that I want to forge for Bambina. The only downside of my kid having a playdate, however, is that I have to be there too. Which is not a cut on the kids. I absolutely love having Bambina's friends come to our house; I missed out on it for so long that I genuinely enjoy seeing her and her very cute friends playing together. In fact, I hope our house becomes, for Bambina's entire lifetime, a place where she and her friends will gather. So it's not the home invasion aspect of things; that I love. For me the issue is the concomitant necessity for me to have a playdate with the moms. Which, again, is not a cut on the moms at all. They are all totally nice and enjoyable to visit with. But you know how being "the new kid" is less fun and more work at first? How first interactions with potential friends do take effort until they become, over time, effortless? That's where I am socially with the moms. They've all had a full year to become friends, to the extent that they travel together as families in some cases. And here I am, with two weeks left till summer vacation, showing up and trying to make friends with the clique. Which I'm more than up to doing; don't get me wrong. Socializing is on my resume. But it's just something I have to talk myself through beforehand, accepting that you have to put yourself out there when you are the new person in a sea of old friends, that you have to bring all of your conversational skills to bear, that you are not always going to have a love connection with the mom of the kid with whom your kid has a love connection.

On the bright side, at least with the moms I've been hanging out with, there is less drama about food and child safety than there was with the moms in DC. That has been a relief. Before the kids came over I called the moms to ask about allergies, approved snacks, etc. And I could tell from their reaction that they were a) grateful for the allergy question, but b)puzzled by the rest of my questions. Like, "serve whatever food you have for a snack; chips are fine. (what's with this chick?)" So when they arrived I explained that in my previous life people were a little more controlling in regards to what their kids ate. Every one of the moms said that she'd never presume to tell another mom what to serve in her house, and barring constant playdates with constant intakes of sugar, whatever the kid eats one time on one day won't kill her. THAT has been such a relief. So my go-to snack of choice is now: a pear or peach fruit cup, cheese and crackers, and teddy grahams. Every kid (and mom, for that matter) has cleaned us out with that on the menu. And, it makes me look a little bit like I care. ;)

The other important thing we did this vacation is read a ton of books. We read all the time, but we really set aside time each day of vacation to just sit and read. Some new and old favorites:

The Peter Books.
Our newest one is Whistle for Willie, but we devour all of these Ezra Jack Keats works: The Snowy Day, Peter's Chair, A Letter For Amy.
Bambina's summary: "I love Peter."

Frog and Toad Are Friends.
In which Frog (the easygoing one) interacts with his friend Toad (the easily-flustered one) to great enjoyment for kids everywhere.
Bambina's summary: "So much drama all the time with Toad!"

The Biscuit books.
We have about eight of the Biscuit books right now. All those kids looking for a copy at the local library? Sorry! These are really simple books about Biscuit the puppy, and how he gets his name, finds a friend, meets the new baby, etc. Each page contains about two sentences, and are perfect for beginning readers in their simplicity. For example, Bambina can now identify the word "woof" on a page, which thrills me. She loves these stories.
Bambina's summary: "I want a puppy too."

Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race.
In which senior citizen Mr. Putter and is neighbor Mrs. Teaberry run a senior marathon. Only, Mr. Putter "hasn't run in 30 years" and would rather drink tea with Tabby than work out. This book is so well-written for beginning readers, the illustrations are fantastic, and the storyline is humorous (even for adults) without being obnoxious like many other books for kids. Suffice to say, we're about to go to the library and empty their inventory of Mr. Putter and Tabby books (there are tons of them).
Bambina's summary: "I like to read this on the potty."

Whether at work or on vacation, I can think of no better recommendation than that.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Vacation Day

In honor know...June 19th...the fifth day after Flag Day, the Haggis is closed.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Stuff and Nonsense

It's 2am, so there will be no discussion of ethanol subsidies or earned income tax credits, darlings. Nope. Tonight/today you are getting entertainment gossip a la Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper.

First up. As a child, I can think of nothing better for my emotional and spiritual growth and development than going out with my mom who is WEARING NO UNDERWEAR under a see-through outfit. In Istanbul. Culturally sensitive and appropriate to the last is our dear Kate Moss, also known as Mother Of The Year:

Next. Speaking of body parts, can this man be any more delicious, even with the tip of a finger missing? It was cut clean off during filming for his latest Bond movie. All I can say is, "Daniel, call me!" And next time, hire a mohel.

Next. Prepare yourselves for next summer's movie blockbuster: Bruno. It's Sasha Baron Cohen again, this time doing his Austrian eccentric character. Website Defamer jokingly said that the movie's real, full title would be, "Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt." It's not really, but it's pretty funny.

And finally, a link to People Magazine's "Child Stars: Then and Now." My fave is Peter Billingsley of A Christmas Story "I Double Dog Dare You!" fame. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pret-a-Porter Potty

As you know, it's vacation for Bambina till summer camp starts next week. Last week was an interesting experience watching her relax into a vacation routine just like any adult. The first day she slept till 9am, a heretofore unprecedented event. Then she didn't get dressed the entire day; just wanted to hang out and draw pictures and watch The Traveling Wilburys DVD. The entire week was one of decompression.

This week, by contrast, is all about doing, going and moving. We got new air conditioners, so Bambina decided to use the boxes for fun. The large one she made into a house for Tinkerbell. She had the BBDD use pipe cleaners to make one end a door latch, she set it up with couch cushions and then drew pictures on the inside to decorate. She was very proud of her accomplishment, which kept her busy for a couple of hours. She then got busy working on the smaller A/C box. When I asked her about her activity she said, "You will find out what it is soon." When she pronounced it finished I asked her to tell me all about it (knowing that you never ask a kid "what is it?" in case what it is is supposed to be mind-numbingly self-evident). Her answer? "It's a port-a-potty!" She put a plastic bag in the box, hooked it over a small couch cushion, and told me I could use it if I needed to pee pee. I quite literally could not stop laughing for perhaps a good 6 minutes. Everyone who came in the door all week was directed by her to the Port a Potty just in case they had to pee.

We have also spent a good amount of time in the bathtub, if you can believe it. Bambina got a mini pool for her birthday but the weather hasn't really been pool-friendly, so instead we have been hanging out in the tub in her swimsuit while she pretends she's either Tinkerbell or Snow White making espressos from the bath bubbles. Every day I have to pull her out of the tub after about 90 minutes, to much kiddie chagrin.

It is all good fun. The only issue is when each thread of her imaginative play comes together to form, if you will, a whole that is rather more disturbing than its parts. Consider that while in the bath being Tinkerbell, Bambina informed me that The Wilburys were also coming over. And not only were The Wilburys coming over, but they were jumping into the bath too With All Their Clothes On!! "Even Jim the drummer." I said something cautious like, "Well, that's pretty silly to jump into the bath with their clothes on." To which she replied, "Yeah! The Wilburys should take their clothes off!" How do you respond?!! She has no concept of nudity as a sexual thing, no sense that the image of 5 rather hirsute men from the 80's naked in my kid's bath gives me the willies, no sense other than We're Having a Bath Party! Thank God the BBDD yelled from the other room (through laughter at my predicament), "I hope they brought their swim suits!" Thank God. Yes. Swimsuits. Still, Bob Dylan in a speedo in my tub isn't exactly my idea of preschool fun. But if you've got a guitar-obsessed 4 year-old there's only so much you can do.

In other news we went and signed up for Chinese school. Starting in the fall, the whole family will be going to weekly Chinese classes. The school is a good mix of Chinese-American families and families with children from China. While Bambina is in her beginner class, the BBDD and I will be in our beginner class, all of which is designed with the purpose of us supporting her language learning in the home. I'm really excited about it, especially getting beyond our current colors/numbers/quick phrases stage of Chinese knowledge. Not to mention making friends with other families, both Caucasian and Asian, and building a community for ourselves. I know I can't give Bambina her birthparents or her birth culture; both huge losses that can't be replaced. But what I can give her is a solid sense of self, of the many aspects of her hybrid cultural identity: American, Chinese by birth, Jewish, raised by white parents. Chinese language is a non-negotiable aspect of that in my opinion.

So, anyway. We're off to the Science Museum. Have a great day! Zai Jian!

McCain Meets You-Tube

Link and commentary on the dissipation of McCain's "brand" via Newshoggers: no-take-backs-on the soul-selling.html

The larger point being, IMHO, that John McCain's campaign needs to learn that this thing called "the internet" exists, and that things you said (rather forcefully, I might add) on TV can be found and re-aired. So it's less easy to rely on the short-term memory of the voters and just call your opponent a liar than it used to be. Especially where the videotape exists.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Buenos Tuesday

As I mentioned, this may be a week o' slim pickins' since Bambina is on vacation till Monday and my days are full of play dates and visits to museums. In the meantime, here are some linkies for you, with some quickie thoughts:

An article on the--as it turns out--comparatively small number of Angry Clinton Supporters. Which is not to say they don't matter, but just that it's less of an epidemic than first thought. Which offers me some relief, not as an Obama supporter, but as a woman. The idea that someone so dedicated to Hillary Clinton and her policies could just decide to vote for McCain, an anti-choice, pro-war, conservatives-to-the-Supreme-Court candidate, really bothered me. It bothered me because of what it said about women: that if they get pissed off they will act irrationally and against their own self-interest. It's a classic meme of sexism: the angry, scorned woman. And here they go obliging that caricature. I absolutely understand the anger; this blog is littered with my pronouncements that I would NEVER vote for HRC under any circumstances. But honestly? I like to hope I'd have gotten over it by November. And if I hadn't, you can be damn sure I still wouldn't have been voting for John McCain. I mean, JOHN MCCAIN! A Democratic woman voting for John McCain!?! Please! Write in HRC, stay home, whatever assuages your anger if you can't bring yourself to help us win the White House. But John McCain? Sister, please.

Next up, Peggy Noonan's article in last Sunday's WSJ:
Aw, bless. Peggy thinks there are two Americas, one Old and one New. Fair enough. But having premised her article on it, she then has to squeeze all of her opinions into that rubric.
In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should. In the New America, love of country is a decision. It's one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.

The Old America had big families. You married and had children. Life happened to you. You didn't decide, it decided. Now it's all on you. Old America, when life didn't work out: "Luck of the draw!" New America when life doesn't work: "I made bad choices!" Old America: "I had faith, and trust." New America: "You had limited autonomy!"...

The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. The New: I'll sue.

Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like "personal honor," of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles. Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.

I won't take the 12 pages to address each of these one by one and to offer a thought that there are many different Americas some of which are neither Old nor New. But, at the risk of just going along with Peggy's Old/New divide, let's just start at the top and say that the notion that I would decide to love my country after "weighing the pros and cons" is a bit offensive. I would offer that there are many different ways to love your country, some of which IMHO involve speaking up and out when you see it going awry. Blind approval does not equal love. Vociferous questioning does not equal hate or ambivalence. I love my country plenty; that definition for me does not include caring about damn flag pins, mindlessly cheerleading my President into a war, and calling anyone who questions our policies unpatriotic. Like I said, there are lots of ways to love your country, old or new.

Next, tradition. We "New" Americans think it is a lovely antique, while Old Americans think it is a guide for life. Again, that's too simplistic. Perhaps there are a whole swath of Americans who value tradition as a whole but who prefer not to continue those elements of tradition that devalue our fellow Americans..some of whom are members of our own families. You don't have to be non-traditional to know that some elements of "tradition" are wrong. Some of the most traditional people I know are in same-sex marriages. Nothing about their lives is at all indicative of people who are anti-tradition; they go to church, they love Jesus, they have community-based jobs, their Christmases are like something out of Currier and Ives, they volunteer, they are models of what makes a good neighbor. But Peggy's "Old" America would say they devalue tradition. I'd say they are perhaps the backbone of much of that tradition.

Lastly, I've got to address the McCain/Obama reference. Specifically, the old world of personal honor vs. the prizing of ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness. What?! How can a guy who serially cheated on his wife and left her for a younger model be the symbol of personal honor? How can a guy involved in the Keating Five scandal be the symbol of personal honor? Or are those elements of both "tradition" and "politics is duty"? And, on the other side, why is questioning what has come before seen as "ambivalence?" Why so either/or, Peggy? The article goes on to discuss sacrifice, comparing Old (living in a cage for 5 years in Vietnam) to New (not taking a corporate job in favor of working in the community). Really, Peggy? That's the best you could come up with in favor of sacrifice? No question being a POW is a sacrifice. I won't even touch that. But there are plenty of "Old" Americans who did no such thing. So what is the definition of sacrifice for them? And there are plenty of "New" Americans currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and in our police forces here at home. What if they made the choice to do that instead of something more lucrative? Does that make it less meaningful?

Her article ends with the thought that America is always pushing forward into the new but, "Hope we know where we're going, though." Peggy. You should have asked yourself that at the beginning of this very reductive column.

And, finally, in a last little funny piece of partisan humor, here is a movie called, You'll enjoy it. Depending on which way you swing. ;) ps--click on the More About This Movie link to get the facts behind the claims made in the movie.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Go Celtics!

That's what I'm talkin' about!!!

Nostalgia is a good thing...

Oh and By the Way,

I met my stem cell donor.

DF held a donor appreciation luncheon and they asked me to speak about my transplant and to meet my donor. At first I said "no thanks" because the prospect of meeting my donor in front of an audience was just a bit too "Montel Williams" for my liking. But when they said that I could meet her beforehand, I said okay. Mostly on the theory that Bambina would be in the audience and I was not going to have her see Mama lose her shit on stage at the age of four. And also because, notwithstanding my blogging proclivities, I still kind of keep my cards close to my vest in matters like this.

It happened a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't written about it because I haven't really felt like talking about it. And even though I met her at a well-attended luncheon event I was still feeling a bit private about it all. After all, what do you say to or about someone who saved your life? And, to be honest, although I've thought of her fondly over the past year, it has been in the abstract. Not to mention that I've had so many other things on my plate that ruminating on the identity or personality of my donor was not really high on my list of things to do, as ungrateful as that may sound. So I didn't have any image of her as a person or any preconceived notions about her going into this. In fact, leading up to the luncheon, I was a bit nervous that she'd be a fruitcake or a religious freak or just anyone that I'd be cringing to have in my life for the rest of my life. Call it a Jerry Springer Meet-Your-Birthmother show or something, but I was just hoping it wasn't going to be all "we don't have anything in common except our stem cells" awkward.

So anyway, I'm writing about it because it's about to be up on the DF website and then we're going to be on NESN later in the summer as part of a donor recruitment drive with the local sports teams. So I figured if you're going to see me online and on TV, it's probably time to get over my perceived privacy issues. And anything that gets people to sign up for the registry is worth a little bit of me stepping out of my comfort zone.

I won't say too much about my donor since it's not for me to publicize her on a blog. But I will say that she's pretty remarkable. I'm the second person she's donated to. And she only signed up as part of a drive to see if she might have been a match for a family friend. So it's pretty illustrative of someone's honor that they sign up with the intent of helping someone they know, and then agree to follow through--not once but twice--in the aid of a complete stranger. And she's only 30 years old. How many of us can say we saved someone's life by the age of 30? And more to the point, how many of us can say we saved someone's entire world?

To that end, here is what I said at the luncheon:

16 months ago I was feeling like the unluckiest person on the planet. As a result of toal bone marrow failure I was so sick that I had a daughter I couldn't parent, a husband I couldn't do anything with or for, a business with friend we had to close because I was too sick to leave the house. I spent the the greater part of my days in and out of hospitals for transfusions, since I was producing no blood cells of my own. And the times I wasn't there for a scheduled visit, I was in the ER because I had no immune system and was spiking fevers and infections on a weekly basis, all of which could easily have killed me.

Looking back, our whole existence was focused on my failing health, on managing my almost-daily emergencies. At the time, said to husband "this is a miserable way to live." More accurately it was a miserable way to wait to die. Even the trip to Dana Farber for our consult was a massive undertaking. I was too sick to get on a plane, so we drove ten hours nonstop from DC with a map of all ERs en route just in case I spiked a fever on the way. It was just constant stress and fear with seemingly no end in sight.

One night in particular, I was in the hospital with a 104 fever, it was 3am, and we were having all those conversations with doctors that you really do not want to be having: "advanced directives" "anyone you need to call?" "not sure how tonight is going to go..." I remember that night because all through my illness I had always prayed for a cure. I'd always said, "God, there has to be a path for me, just show me the path and I'll do anything I need to do to walk it. I'll drag myself by my fingernails, just show me the path." That night I realized that I'd given up praying for a cure. I was just praying to live through the night because I'd put my daughter to bed before my fever spiked, and I was coming unhinged at the thought that she would ever think I'd just left her in the middle of the night. I think whatever age you are when something like this happens or whatever your background, you can probably imagine that praying you live for a couple of hours so you can see your child's face is just about as dark as you ever need your life to ever get. And we were there. We were looking into the abyss.

Fast forward to today. A happy day. 12 months after my transplant, 12 months made possible by this wonderful woman. 12 months in which I've learned that I am not now nor have I ever been the unluckiest anybody anywhere, and in fact quite the opposite.

Because that path I prayed for led me to DF; that path IS DF.
And how lucky am I that here at DF I hooked up with the amazing Doctor, who not only had heard of my sad little rare disease but had treated people with it.
And how lucky that I had the nursing care at DF and the Brigham. Nurses who gave me the highest level of technical care while ensuring my dignity as a person, which is no small feat if you are familiar with the numerous indignities of a transplant.
And of course, today: how lucky am I that I was put on the earth at the same time as this woman, who with no thought of any return for herself, no sense that anything would come her way as a result, and on what in my case was a moment's notice, gave of herself to a complete stranger. And if that doesn't make you feel like the luckiest person on the earth, I simply don't know what will.

Which brings me to my second point. In Judaism we have a belief that "He who saves a single life, it is as if he has saved the entire world." When you think about all the people who love the person you saved, who rely on the person you saved, whose lives would be so fundamentally different without the person you saved, you really start to grasp the significance of what you have given as a stem cell donor. And that's what I hope you will all take with you today and carry with you for the rest of your lives: That you saved someone's life for sure. But more importantly you saved their world. And you need look no further than that table to see a small example of my saved world: Four generations of it. (I then talked about the people at the table).

And, so, {donor} I'm just gonna say it: I've just met you and I love you! It's our Oprah moment! I have thought about you every single day since my transplant and have considered you a member of our family since then. {donor}, I love you because you saved my life. But more importantly and far more significantly, I love you because in saving me, you saved my entire world.

Because now I will get to grow old with this very cute man right here. And, most importantly, I will get to see my daughter grow up. Because those 16 months ago, I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was going to miss so much of her life. And it was easily the blackest, darkest, most miserable and heartbreaking experience of my entire life, and a place I never want to return. But now I will get to be her mom just like I was always meant to be. And that is a debt I can never never repay you. And all I can say, however meager-sounding but no less deeply-felt, is thank you. Thank you for saving my world.

And, for the record, my donor and I got along like a house on fire. :)

Let the Games Begin

It's early and I can't possibly write about Habeus Corpus at this time in the morning. So, luckily for your now non-existent work day, I've been goofing off doing dumb quizzes. Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Disrespectful...and Racist

Read that graphic from Fox News. Can you ever imagine a news outlet doing a story on Laura Bush while referring to her as George Bush's "Baby Mama"?! Can you imagine them doing it to Cindy McCain? What oh what could possibly lead this network to use the term "baby mama" for Obama's college educated, bootstrapper of a wife, a woman to whom he has been married for almost 16 years, a woman with whom he had children AFTER marriage? The only woman to whom he has ever been married? What oh what would possess someone to use the term "baby mama" about someone to whom none of the definitional elements of "baby mama" apply--except for her skin color?

If you don't find that deeply, deeply offensive I'm not sure what to say. When I posted yesterday about the Right's coming attacks on Michelle Obama, I didn't actually think they would oblige me within 24 hours. And yeah, yeah I'm a shill for Obama. But really. On a basic scale of human decency and respect, what would you do if a "news" organization called your wife a race-based name that also speaks to a lack of respect for marriage and fidelity? If the significance of the "baby mama" insult is lost on you, it's the equivalent of having a graphic underneath Hadassah Lieberman saying, "What a JAP."* Or a graphic under Cindy McCain saying "What a piece of white trailer trash." You can't imagine it being done because it just simply wouldn't be done.

This is racist. Pure and simple.

*some attempts have been made by some women to "reclaim" this word but it is so steeped in mysogyny, anti-Semitism and racism as to be irredeemable, IMHO.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rockin' the DF

I'm spending the morning here at the clinic getting my final rituxan infusion. You'll recall I joined the study investigating whether rituxan prevents chronic GVHD. So far so good, in my case (since I have late acute and really don't want to be getting the chronic kind to boot). Today's group is a good one. Sometimes you come here and no one chats, which is no fun. Then again, sometimes you come here and everyone wants to chat which can also be no fun. But today I'm in the mood, so I'm enjoying the group. My faves are two Irish brothers, twins I think. They both look like Drew Carey, and they are just making my morning with their effusive jolliness. I dropped my cell phone and didn't notice only to have Drew Two pick it up and give it to me while saying, "Ye'll be wantin' yer phone. That's a lovely phone, 'tis." He may look like Drew Carey, but I'm a bit smitten regardless due to the accent.

I'm actually looking forward to getting a bit of sleep while here. I was telling the BBDD about those days when you have to travel for work or pull an all-nighter and you breathlessly tell someone "I've been awake for 20 hours!" I realized yesterday that I'm awake 20 hours every day; that's my life right now. Especially since Bambina has recently decided that 4am-ish is the time when she a) has to pee and b) feels terribly hungry. Kill me now. So I'm making her a chart to put near her bed with a List of Things To Do If You Can't Sleep:

1. Picture of a toilet--Go Pee
2. Picture of cereal box--Eat Cereal (from a tupperware I'm about to put near her bed)
3. Picture of a book--Read a Story
4. Picture of musical note--Sing to Yourself
5. Picture of markers--Draw some Pictures

She's good about doing all of these things but can't quite remember what to do first in the moment. So I end up walking her through it every time this happens. Hence the chart going up tonight. Today it just became apparent around 5am that she was not going back to sleep, so we went downstairs and did Play-Doh and drawing. But I'm beat, because there's a (small, yet large) difference between being awake at 4am and being awake while managing your kid at 4am. One is bearable-ish. One is unpleasant, no matter how much you love your sweet Bambina.

Bring on that Benadryl, baby!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tres Links

From Wonkette, a link to a website that must be seen to be believed. And remember: it was created in the last week, not 1994: anti-obama-hilltards-create-worlds-dumbest-website

From Andy Borowitz, via The Moderate Voice, a laugh-out-loud description of John McCain's campaign:

And on a more serious note, a solid article on the GOP's plan to demonize Michelle Obama. Or, as the article states, to "Hillary-ize" her. Because if you can't win by attacking the candidate, be sure to attack his wife.
And, not for nothing, but John McCain might want to tread carefully on this ground, in terms of wives. He's got a world of 'splainin' to do in terms of his own honor and fidelity if he really wants to take his party in the direction of attacking a candidate's marital partner. I predict the righties will love turning Michelle into An Angry Black Woman. I also predict a backlash from normal humans if they go there. I also openly wonder whether the women who are continuing to support Hillary in the name of feminism and sisterhood will leap to the defense of Michelle Obama with such alacrity when she becomes the target of sexist smears. We shall see.

Fashion Faux Pas

So here's my boyfriend Barack out biking last weekend with his wife and daughters:

I was about to write a little tough love piece on not tucking that shirt into those jeans with those big white sneakers. I was about to say that all claims to the contrary, he can't possibly have "a Jewish problem" seeing as his weekend attire makes him look exactly like Jerry Seinfeld circa 1994. But then I read in the NY Daily News that Tim Gunn said: "I am grateful that he is not wearing sweats. I am grateful that he is wearing athletic shoes and not Crocs, and I am grateful he is wearing a collar," Gunn told the Daily News. "For a weekend out with the kids, I think he looks great. I give him a B-plus."

You KNOW I'm not going to disagree with Tim Gunn on anything. So all I will say is, "perhaps boot cut jeans next time?" and leave it at that.

In further fashion faux pas: Me. As you know I have to avoid the sun assiduously. Especially while I'm on this latest immunosuppressive that not only causes diarrhea but also skin cancer. Yeah, you read that right. Not "may lead to conditions that might perhaps some day lead to the precursors to what might be skin cancer." No. "This drug causes skin cancer in susceptible individuals." Like, take this drug, recover from your transplant. And while recovering, look forward to all that skin cancer you're getting! Sweet. So I've been walking around looking like a beekeeper in my 60's. (Not that there's anything wrong with being in your 60's. There's just something wrong with LOOKING like it when you're in your 30's). No longer, darlings. Bambina and I went to Target to buy a pump to blow up her kiddie pool. While there we both saw the same hat at the exact same moment and it was in the cart in no seconds flat. I would describe it as a "cowboy" hat, but that doesn't suffice. I'd describe it as "so last year" but that (although true) also doesn't suffice. I'd describe it as "something a 4 year-old would pick" but that would belie the fact that Bambina was given the "Stylin' BandAid Queen" award at her preschool end-of-year party due to her dual penchants for outre/iconoclastic/in the vanguard clothing getups and her desperate need to put a bandaid on anything that looks remotely like a cut or blemish (such as a red pen mark or a freckle). Those of you who know her and saw her school picture know what I'm saying: white peasant sundress, pink/green/blue polka dot long sleeve shirt with flower on front, purple tights, black and silver sparkly shoes, 5 braids in her hair in no particular order--and three bandaids visible in the photo.

No, darlings. The only way I can substantively evoke this hat for you is to say the following 5 words:

Bret Michaels Rock of Love.

Oh yeah, baby! Behold, my hat:

Sans bandanna underneath, however. I'm done with bandannas. They all just say "chemo" to me now so I can't wear them without gagging a little bit. But how about that cheeseball hat?! And worse: it's workin' for me. I don't know how it's working for anyone who's looking at me, but it's working for ME. And, seriously, that's all I care about. Because I'd rather look like a washed-up hair band rocker than an antediluvian albino sesquicentenarian with a raging Vitamin D deficiency.

Or something like that.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Special Kid

Yesterday we went to the JCC family gym to beat the heat outside. While there, a teenage-looking girl came in and started to use the equipment near us. She was talking to herself and walked with a particular gait. As time went on it became clear that she was a kid with special needs. I could see Bambina trying to figure her out. She asked, "why is she talking to herself?" I realized at that moment that I spend all my time trying to educate people about my family's situation but have taken no time to educate myself about other families situations. I had no idea what to say to help my 4 year-old understand a kid with special needs in a compassionate and--dare I say--nonchalant manner.

So I said, "Some kids talk to themselves; some kids don't." Then the girl came over and started talking to us, asking what we were going to do when we left the gym. So I just started chatting with her, asked her what she was going to do when she left the gym, etc. It turned out to be a fine chat, but Bambina was clearly a little bit afraid of her simply, I think, because of her size and her lack of a sense of physical space, and I think perhaps because she seemed different. I remember having the same feeling as a kid when we visited a family friend whose child had Down Syndrome. We played in their pool and had tons of fun when we visited, but I do remember feeling afraid of him when we first met. I think it was the "otherness" maybe. And his relative size to me. I can't recall why. I just recall that I did. Which ended up having no bearing on how we played later, but it's instructive that I remember very well being a bit frightened of his differentness to what I knew to be familiar.

Which is why a lightbulb when on yesterday. I want Bambina to be comfortable around all kids, just as I want other kids to be comfortable around her and her white parents. And as much as I put it on parents to speak positively about adoption and to avoid being clueless or rude, I need to take the initiative to fix my own cluelessness about kids with special needs. For example, I have no idea if "kid with special needs" is an appropriate phrase. Maybe just "kid" is better. I don't know. So if any of you have any ideas or websites, send them along. Because it really finally dawned on me yesterday that this stuff is important to raising a compassionate and confident kid. I remember a mildly-developmentally delayed boy from my elementary school, and the stuff that kid went through ought to keep me awake at night. As I look back, none of the kids had any tools whatsoever to interact with a kid who was different from what they knew to be the norm. And that is a failure of parenting as well as tragic a failure of imagination. One or two kids were outright mean--but they were mean about everyone. The rest ignored him or teased him sporadically. I think I veered into the pity response, where I was nice to him not because I saw him as a person I could be friends with but because I wanted to counteract what I saw happening to him from others. I suppose it's better than being mean, but how much better would it have been for me to have internalized that a kid is a kid is a kid, regardless of how well he walks, talks or thinks? And how do I give that knowledge, that core sense of confidence to see everyone as important, to Bambina?

So as we chatted to Linda (name changed) and I encouraged Bambina to speak to her, we ended up playing a cool game on the slide that Linda had invented. Bambina had a great time, I had a great time, and when we left we said, "Maybe we'll see you here next time for another game!" Bambina kept asking about her all night: "How old was she again? Was she really thirteen?! Why did she talk to herself? What was her name again? Tell me the story of how she showed us her slide game. Why did she talk to herself?..." I just wished I had the knowledge of how to speak specifically to the issue. So I just said again, "some kids talk to themselves; some don't. Either is fine," but felt like I was missing an opportunity for a teachable moment.

So while I'm in the process of educating myself, I'm hoping that in the end, maybe it's more what you do than what you say that influences your kid. And with any luck, Bambina will grow up seeing that a kid is a kid is a kid.

Ho Ho Hosiery

An article in Thursday's WSJ called "Bare Legged Ladies: Hosiery Reveals Office Divide" absolutely nailed my thoughts on those horrifying things called pantyhose. It focuses on the question of whether bare legs are proper in the work place, and the seemingly-generational divide regarding the answer to that question.

Y'all. Pantyhose were invented by Satan himself. They are the reason pantsuits were invented. They are the reason high calf/knee boots were invented. They are to be worn only when absolutely necessary (black for a formal event) and never, never darlings with open-toed shoes, no matter that it says "sandalfoot" on that egg-shaped carton.

The article also discusses the fact that many boomer-age women in the workplace now feel frumpy when they attend events and are the only woman in the room wearing nylons. As the article said, "Young women don't even think about pantyhose," whereas older women struggle to feel professional without them. It also very competently discusses the issue of workplace dress codes, and how those have evolved over time to allow in most cases for a hose-free environment. My rule? If a guy doesn't have to wear a tie, I don't have to wear hose. End of story.

Obviously, pantyhose are necessary in certain professional arenas simply out of tradition. While I worked hard to avoid wearing them in my former work life, there were times I knew I had to, such as a client pitch meeting or at a conservative client site. But any other time, I was all about my pantsuits and my knee-high boots. And if I did wear skirts, I just made sure they were AT the knee, rather than above, lest anyone mistake 'No Pantyhose' with 'Panties of a Ho' when looking at me.

Damn Hot

It's really hot here in New England, and it's going to get hotter over the next 3 days. Like, 104 heat index hot.

Did I mention we don't have central AC in our beloved new Money Pit? Nice.

I'm trying to be zen about it till we get a window AC (which is online + delivery since every big box store seems to stock only the models that got trashed by Consumer Reports). After all, we didn't have AC when I was growing up until I was in high school. And even then, it was one window unit in our living room. Our version of central AC was one of those little personal fans that my bro and sis and I had on our nightstand. I still remember mine fondly: blue and white and marked up by all the pieces of gum I'd placed on it in the evening and removed the next morning. I do remember feeling hot but not like, "Oh my god I'm going to die!" So why am I such a wuss now? The answer is: because I do not have my trusty blue and white and gum-marred 6-inch fan blowing on me. Must get myself to a Caldor or Zayres or KMart and hook myself up.

In other news, I'm up at 3am. Which is not news per se, seeing as I am always up at 3am these days. But still, I figured I'd fill you in. I do feel monstrously sleep-deprived, however. Like, to the level of Just-Home-From-China-Circa-2005 sleep deprived. And there is no cure except getting off prednisone. I can't nap during the day (practically or physically), so whatever 3 hours I get a night is what I get. And let me tell you, it's starting to take a toll. As I once read about Michael Dukakis, "he needs a bellhop for his eyebags." Which are secondary only to my non-prednisone-related but nonetheless "curious" hair these days. After chemo, I lost only some of my hair. Mostly around the perimeter of my face and neck and at the part where the top of my head becomes the back of my head. Well, as promised by chemo legend, my new hair is different. As in, kind of curly and either white or brown. Contrast with my hair that didn't fall out: blond and straight/wavy. So what I have is one head with competing hair textures and colors--but only in spots! So add to the fact that I was already a Woman In Search of a Hairstyle before the transplant, I am now a woman in search of a hairstyle that accommodates both curly and straight hair on the same head. You do the math. Ain't gonna happen. So my response is to say "whatever!" and let it do what it wants to do. Besides, I'm too tired to care.

Which reminds me that I'm going to go lie down now and try to get some sleep. Happy Sunday.

Definitely Un-funny

Here's a little nugget from Breitbart:

Celebrity funnyman Chris Rock was the victim of a practical joke while on tour in South Africa, after being pranked with accusations he had sex with a British minor, a prosecutor said Saturday.

"It was a hoax, it was for one of the US (United States) reality television programmes," said National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Tlali Tlali. The US comedian, who is on his "No apologies"tour in the country, was duped by rumours he was about to be arrested for sexually assaulting a minor in Britain.

"They pulled one on him, information got to him that the South African Police Service was going to arrest him. Acting on that information he quickly approached lawyers who brought an urgent application at the Johannebsurg High Court where judgement was in his favour," Tlali told AFP. Tlali said Rock had sought clarification on the charges to be brought against him.

A fake prosecutor, one of the cast members for the television show, appeared in court Monday urging that Rock be taken into custody, however the judge ruled he could not be arrested or detained without a proper warrant. "This one went far, it must have been organised quite carefully," said Tlali, who said when prosecutors discovered the following day it was a prank there were mixed reactions with some slamming it as a waste of time, while others saw the funny side. It was not known which television show was behind the prank.

Whoo hoo! That is high-larious! Can you think of anything funnier than telling a guy he is going to be arrested in a foreign country for sexually assaulting a minor?!! Damn, that is some really great humor right there. I sure hope some classy person plays that prank on ME someday! Because there is no humor like "you're getting arrested for rape" humor. No sirree.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I know this will sound like a backhanded compliment, but I can't think of another way to say it. After the past 16 months I couldn't imagine ever saying this, but Hillary's remarks today were pure class.

Seriously. Props to her for a classy speech, well-delivered.

To be honest, anticipating the speech, I was ready to use some variation on "It's not the 'glass ceiling'; it's the 'ass' ceiling! As in, HRC is one." But thankfully you all were spared that second-rate bon mot.

I will say that a large part of her speech focused on the issue of being a woman, on being the female candidate for the highest office in the land, on the continuing battle for equal rights for women. It struck me that herein lies one of the primary missteps of her campaign: HRC never settled on a strategy or message regarding her gender in this race. She veered between being, in front of some audiences, The Female Candidate Fighting for All Women, and in front of others, being sort of non-gendered, as in not wishing to be judged on the gender criteria. It was a key misstep because her constant vacillation between the two: "I am strong enough to lead this country" and "Why do I get all the debate questions first?" had the effect of alienating many people. It also had the effect of weakening her message that she was just like any other candidate and should expect to be treated as such. Contrast with Obama whose entire goal in this race was to NOT be The Black Candidate but rather just The Candidate (Who Happens to Be Biracial). Note the constant efforts of the Clinton campaign and RNC surrogates (ie, Fox News) to MAKE him The Black Candidate, and note his campaign's (not always successful, thank you, Reverend Wright) rapid response to those efforts. Whichever way HRC picked, she could have crafted a strategy for victory and run with it. But the indecision and (I would say) obvious discomfort at having to choose really helped do her candidacy in. As Peggy Noonan said, Margaret Thatcher would have laughed at those Hillary Nutcrackers had they been made for her. Not in the "gee, that's funny" way, but in the "do you think that's going to get under my skin? Think again, asswipe" way. That's because Thatcher (who I otherwise do NOT recommend emulating, darlings) made the call early on that she was not The Female Prime Minister. She was The Prime Minister, end of story. There was therefore a consonance between her message and persona that evoked confidence in the electorate (or, that portion of the electorate who would ever vote Tory). By contrast, IMHO, one primary element of HRC's campaign has been the ongoing dissonance between message and tone, words and action, strategy and execution. Especially as it related to being a woman.

That said, she did everything she needed to do tonight, both for herself and for Obama.

This Too Shall Pass

You'll notice that the blogging frequency has fallen off a little. You'll also be aware that Bambina is on vacation for a couple of weeks before her summer day camp starts, which means that my days and nights are now spoken for.

Talk about a kid who needs a vacation from school. I realized that she hasn't had more than a day off in a year, which would put most adults over the edge, never mind a 4 year-old. (Which reminded me of this short but sweet [and so true] post over at Dubious Quality). So we're having fun during the days, doing arts & crafts, going to the library, playing outside, pretty much staying busy all day. In short, we're doing all the things that will necessitate a vacation for ME after two weeks. Bambina was so sweet yesterday. We bought these cool people shapes, and were creating the Dan Zanes Band. I am notoriously bad at drawing faces, having them all come out looking like something out of a Nine Inch Nails video. So when it came time to do Dan Zanes' face I said, "why don't you do his face so Mama doesn't mess it up?" Bambina replied, "No Mama. You try it. Don't worry; you can do it! We will cheer for you!" She then starting singing "Mama Yay Yay" as I attempted to draw a nose on Dan, and then glowingly praised my "effort" when I was done. Very cute.

We're currently in the process of making dragons to take with us on Sunday to the Boston Dragonboat Festival:, an event Bambina has been awaiting for months now. Due to the crowds, we'll probably go early to see the boat races but skip the cultural stuff "inside the big tent" for this year. The last place I'm heading on a 90 degree day is inside a "big tent" full of people. Not gonna do it. Not even in honor of Qu Yuan.

In other news, I'm still psychotically germophobic. Which at this point in my recovery is actually still a good thing. I did the math: if all goes well and my GVH does not flare again (necessitating another two months of high-dose prednisone, followed by 4 months of tapering), it will still be 2009 before I'm off all of my immunosuppressives. Bah. And then it will still be another year after that till I'm more or less "normal," in terms of immunity. My hottie nurse from NIH once said, "Don't get a transplant unless you absolutely have to, because believe me, you will go through the transplant, think you are done, but then spend the rest of your life managing the effects of the transplant." Damn. Hot AND smart, he was. I'm just praying (and will accept any you wish to offer as well) that my GVH doesn't flare again. I cannot tell you how sick I am of eating bananas, white rice, applesauce, white toast, scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. No matter what I do, if I stay on that diet, things go okay-ish. If I deviate and tell myself it's only one slice of pizza, one piece of chocolate, one yogurt, one french fry, one slice of watermelon, whatever: BLAM. Ugliness on a scale I cannot describe. I have been eating that diet since March 26th, and I am completely and utterly over it. The only saving grace is that, moon face notwithstanding, I have gained minimal prednisone weight on my ass. Why? Because when you can only eat 5 things, you tend to not eat for no reason; in fact, I have to make myself eat even though I'm hungry because I'm thinking, "Oh god, not another bowl of white rice with scrambled eggs!" Bleah. Although as sucky as it is, I'll still take "crapping my pants while alive and otherwise well" over "sick as a dog and waiting to die from Aplastic Anemia."

As they say, "this too shall pass." Literally.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mo' Money

A bunch of economic links for you this evening:

Here's a good summary of the increase in food prices:

And here's my solution. I'm going to become a "Cluckie:"

And here's a report that should surprise no one. Apparently the poor state of the economy is leading Americans to use their tax "stimulus" checks to either save more or to retire already-incurred debt, thereby impeding our country's economic "growth."

And, finally, if you're thinking about all the ways you can save energy and money, take this short quiz to determine fact vs. fiction in that regard:
How did I do? Let's just say I have expended more energy on saving energy than energy has been saved...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

More Political Links

Some additional stuff on last night's events:

From The Guardian UK:

A pretty balanced piece on HRC over at Newshoggers: Newshoggers

And, in comic relief, a very funny piece from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hard Work and Plenty Of It

That's what we've got ahead of us if we want to take the White House in November. But it's ours to take and the GOP's to lose. And I'm all for Democratic Unity; we just have to get around the fact that the RNC is set to air ads featuring Hillary Clinton saying that "Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, I will bring a lifetime of experience and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002,..." Kind of a bummer to have the Repuglicans attacking your nominee without doing any of the attacking themselves.

In other news, Rush Limbaugh said that if Obama wins it will be because he's black. Interesting. Because, in the long tortured history of the United States, the one sure way to win something was to Right? As if I need to say it again, this guy's an idiot. Especially because, in the same rant, he said that the growth of big government can be traced to when women got the right to vote. Worse, in the same rant, his caller said that s/he teaches at a home/private school and often "brings the kids" to listen to Limbaugh's opening monologue. Now THAT's quality education.

Which brings me to a Pat Buchanan rant that's been sticking in my craw for weeks now. He said that it's not fair to take West Virginians to task for saying they wouldn't vote for a black person if you are not also going to take all the North Carolinian black people to task for voting 'en masse' for a black man. Chris Matthews dodged the charge. But what he should have said was, "There is a difference--and a very real one. The people in WV said they would not vote for Obama because he's black. That's a statement of racist intent. Yet, black people have been voting for white people for years, but they're racist too because they vote for someone this year who happens to be black? NOT the same thing. There are numerous white officeholders who'd be jobless if black people didn't vote for them, which is a whole different situation than someone saying they simply just do not intend to ever vote for a person of a certain skin color." I just needed to get that off my chest because it doesn't seem like anyone in the MSM is making that point.

On a completely different note, but still on the topic of Hard Work, a study shows that "if a stay-at-home mom could be compensated in dollars rather than personal satisfaction and unconditional love, she'd rake in a nifty sum of nearly $117,000 a year. At-home moms reported working an average of 94.4 hours per week, said the survey. That's according to a pre-Mother's Day study released in May by, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based firm that studies workplace compensation...This year, the annual salary for a stay-at-home mom would be $116,805, while a working mom who also juggles an outside job would get $68,405 for her motherly duties. One stay-at-home mom said the six-figure salary sounds a little low." Amen to that, sister. And the 94 hours sounds a little low too, especially if you consider that we do both day and night shift, no matter what. If the kid is up all night sick, so am I. And guess what?! I'm also up the next day. And moms who work outside the home have to go to work the next day too. That's a lot of hours, y'all. Believe it. I need a raise! ;)

In other, other news, Ken over at Popehat has, via Miss Manners, a response to those well-meaning strangers who just have to know if your kids are "real" sisters. I love Miss Manners and I love Ken, so this is a delightful post for me:

Migraine Day

No blogging till tonight due to a massive medication-induced migraine. Bleah.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Buenos Monday!

Oh, I know I should blog about politics. So much going on! But I'm so effing over this race at the moment. The latest thing annoying me is Hillary's TV ad claiming that she has the popular vote lead and in fact, has the most popular votes of any primary candidate in history. The only hitch? That's only true if you give Obama ZERO votes from Michigan and Florida, AND you discount all the votes he received in four caucus states. So, let me follow this: HRC is so committed to every American's vote being counted (lest we turn into Zimbabwe...), but only if you didn't vote in a caucus that went for her opponent. Then the commitment wavers a little bit. This woman must be stopped. She is now fighting for her own vanity; there can be no other explanation for airing such a completely false ad with no shame. I know she wants Obama to lose so she can say, "See? You should have nominated me." Too bad she's the one doing all the damage while John McCain enjoys his ongoing happy dance with the media.

Some other thoughts on this race. I'm tired of hearing that Obama has "trouble" with white women. Hello?! I absolutely don't believe that to be accurate. With two exceptions, every white woman I know well enough to discuss votes with is voting for him. The key? We're all under 50. I think the female Hillary/Obama divide (again, with many exceptions) is one of generation. If you read Geraldine Ferraro's misguided and poorly-written op-ed in the Boston Globe this weekend, you know what I am saying. As a former "womyn" I absolutely never want to denigrate the struggles of the women who fought for equality during a time when it was not the popular thing to do. My life as it is today is possible because of what they sacrificed. But what I do reject is the ongoing sense that we are somehow still at war for women's rights, and that furthermore I should vote for a woman because she is a woman. That somehow breaking that glass ceiling is more important than voting my conscience. That somehow there is a zero-sum-game between sexism and racism, and I need to pick which side I'm on. Well, I'm on the side of not fighting these same old battles the same old ways with the same old tired rhetoric. And unfortunately, that puts me and my friends at odds with the cohort of women who are of the Hillary generation. I know I'm part of the new generation that doesn't understand the struggle, that doesn't know on a soul-deep level what women in the 60's and 70's had to deal with in the workplace and in the home. But isn't that the point? Don't we fight battles so our kids don't have to? I have always loved the quote, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." I still subscribe to that belief today. Which is why I don't vote for a woman just because she's a woman (or a Catholic because he's a Catholic or anything else for that matter), why I don't necessarily believe that there'd be fewer wars with women at the helm, and why I don't subscribe to the notion that voting for Hillary Clinton is somehow advancing the cause of women's equality (or, that not voting for Hillary is an expression of my inherent sexism). I'm a woman, which means I'm a person like anyone else, with the same rights, the same brain, the same conscience. And, guess what, Sisters of the Revolution? I'm going to use them. And isn't THAT what you fought for?

So how about that Scott McClellan book? I've got to say, I'm not going to read it. I'm no fan of Bob Dole, but I've got to go with him on this one. He wrote an email to McClellan calling him out for spinelessly going along with everything he says was wrong, enjoying his role in Washington, then cashing in when leaving by trashing his former boss. McClellan is a coward. The time to have walked out was back when he saw the Bush administration inflating the case for war. You know, before a lot of young men and women died. The time to dis Rove would have been back when Rove was actually in power in the White House. Now he's just trying to unburden himself, make a buck, and get on some talk shows. And I'm not interested. Even in what he's writing fills us with glee (we were right! we were right!), we shouldn't encourage this kind of ex post facto coming-clean. Scott McClellan could have had all of that and more if he'd only spoken up back when it mattered.

In other news, Australia has officially left Iraq. From "FOR Australian combat troops the war in Iraq is over. The Defence Force in southern Iraq formally handed its commitment to the United States and lowered the Australian flag above Camp Terendak, at the US-run air base Tallil, at a ceremony yesterday morning. The handover, which fulfils the Rudd Government's election commitment to withdraw Australia's combat troops from a deeply divisive war, was based on an agreement between Australian and US commanders. About 550 soldiers, who have been overseeing Iraqi security forces in two southern provinces as well as training Iraqi troops and police, will begin returning to Australia." Good for them.

And, in a disturbing but not surprising development, it turns out that the US has been secretly running about 17 floating prisons a la Gitmo. Only on a ship, the media can't find you and take you to task for human rights violations. Nice:

Hmm. Well it looks like I did end up blogging about politics. I'll do better next time.