Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Look at the Netflix Queue

This week it features "The Book of Daniel," "Huff" and "Dead Like Me." All have the dubious distinction of having been cancelled before their time.

TBOD features the still-delicious Aidan Quinn as an Episcopal priest with a gay son, a drug-selling daughter, a sex-crazy son having relations with a parishioner's daughter, and a brother in law who may have made off with the parish's building fund. Through it all, he talks to an incarnation of Jesus who disapproves when he tries to pop some vicodin, among other things.

The upside of the show? The writing is excellent. The downside? There are only 4 episodes because the Catholic Church succeeded in having NBC cancel show right out of the gate. This is lamentable because the show seems to me to be pro-religion. Certainly, not all of God's creatures or men of the cloth are portrayed with a soft glow of adoration, if not in a completely irreverent and smutty manner. It's not a show for the easily offended. But the whole point of each episode is that Daniel finds his way through the slings and arrows of life by having a faith-filled relationship with God--and a chatty personal relationship with his imaginings of Jesus. He's a loving father and husband. He's trying to be a good priest. He's a little bit in the wilderness and he's trying to stay faithful to his God while managing some very human concerns. The only sour note for me was one scene where his sex-crazed son (who happens to be Asian and adopted) jokingly propositions his sister on the premise that they are not "really" brother and sister. She responds, "Ew! Gross!" Gross indeed. And obviously written by someone devoid of any knowledge of adoption and going for a cheap and icky laugh. But other than that, the show was excellent. So go ahead and rent it. But don't blink or you'll miss it.

Next up is Huff, a psychiatrist with a crazy life played by Hank Azaria. Entertaining, disturbing and interesting. I can't say too much about the plot or else I'll ruin it for you. But suffice to say that he's a man trying to help others while not doing a great job of helping himself. Azaria is good, his lawyer and friend played by Oliver Platt is fantastic, but Blythe Danner as his mother is absolutely amazing. Not once in my life have I thought twice about Blythe Danner, but I just can't get over how good she is as the insufferably bigoted, snobby, yet three-dimensional mother. Rent it just for her.

We're also watching the second season of Dead Like Me. This is about reapers; people who are dead and who must retrieve the souls of people in the seconds before they die. It sounds dark, but it's anything but. Led by Mandy Patinkin as Rube, these "undead" people have to hold down jobs and apartments and lives while fulfilling their duties as reapers. The primary character, Georgia, was killed at 18 when a piece of space junk (a shuttle toilet seat) landed on her. She now works at Happy Time temp agency and tries to make sense of her own death while leading others through theirs. It's twistedly funny in a good way--and I'm doing a terrible job of accurately describing how good it is. So here is a blurb from the website:

The members of Rube's team of reapers are all, like George, people who died with unresolved issues. They still have lessons to learn that - for one reason or another - they failed to learn in life. They move about the Pacific Northwest in the full light of day. They walk the city streets and eat at all-night diners, just like anyone else. They have to find somewhere to live, cook, eat and do their laundry. They look just like everyone else but as grim reapers they appear physically different to the living than they did when they were alive. What George experiences beyond death is the focus of this darkly comedic series. It takes a slightly twisted look at life and at one possible version of life in the after life. What if death is not the end? What if it is not even an escape from the issues that plagued us? What if it is not a way to avoid accountability, but an opportunity to accept responsibility? What if it is a wake-up call?

A Clan for My Tribe

Bravo to Rabbi Mendel Jacobs of Glasgow, Scotland. He has created the first Jewish-Scottish tartan. Finally! Here's the scoop from The Daily Record:

A SCOTS rabbi has created the world's first official Jewish tartan.

Mendel Jacobs, 32, consulted the Scottish Tartans Authority and religious scholars to come up with a design to reflect Scotland's Jewish history. He said: "As the only Scottish-born rabbi living in Scotland, I felt it was important to celebrate the rich tapestry of culture and history we share and it is particularly fitting for Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. "The Jewish people have been an integral part of Scottish culture for more than 300 years, with the first Jew recorded in Edinburgh in 1691." Rabbi Mendel runs the Shul In The Park in Glasgow.

The colours, weave and number of threads in the new tartan have all been picked for their relevance to Judaism. Rabbi Mendel added: "The blue and white represent the colours of the Scottish and Israeli flags, with the central gold line representing the gold from the Biblical Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the many ceremonial vessels. "The silver is from the decorations that adorn the Scroll of Law and the red represents the traditional red Kiddush wine. "The cloth is also 100 per cent kosher - being a non-wool linen mix."

Internationally renowned weavers Lochcarron of Scotland have vested an interest in manufacturing the tartan. There is expected to be a huge global demand for the design from the estimated 15million Jews worldwide. The biggest markets will be the US and Israel, each with about five-and-a-half million Jews. At the last census in 2001, there were 6400 Jews in Scotland.

From "Brian Wilton, director of the Scottish Tartans Authority, which certified the design as part of its registry, says that the existence of a Jewish tartan is a necessity. “Generations of Scots are of the Jewish faith,” he says, “so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be [popular].”

It's already sold out, so I'm getting in line for the next batch. Awesome!!

ps-hat tip to Rabbi Miller for the heads-up. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tofus, Jews, VP News and Airline Crews

So many things to go over today:

Here's a link to a study, "The Interactive Effect of Cultural Symbols and Human Values on Taste Evaluation," suggesting that our culinary preferences can be influenced by personality. Specifically, people who scored high on "social authority," ie, that one should support people in power, rated vegetarian sausage as inferior even if it was not actually vegetarian. It also worked in the inverse, those who scored low on social authority rated the vegetarian sausage as excellent even if it was actually meat. Within the post there is a link to another study showing that people rated "expensive" wines as better even when though they had just been served the same wine five times and told that each was a different price point.
Let's face it, fellow humans, we're a bunch of sheep.

File this one under Jews Behaving Badly. Here's a link to a post vindicating the Obama campaign on the issue of having "approved" his Western Wall note for publication. Turns out the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv now claims it never said such a thing.
I've avoided blogging about this whole topic because it just made me so freakin' uncomfortable. You know how you feel when your Uncle Drunky Pants does something embarrassing at a wedding and you love Uncle Drunky Pants, but god you wish he wouldn't do stuff that reflects so poorly on the whole family in front of others? Yeah. That's how I was feeling about this story. Made worse by the fact that a freakin' YESHIVA student took the note! Like, how does that not get you a one-way ticket out of yeshiva? Hello, I'm studying to be a rabbi and I thought it would be a funny "prank" to steal a man's prayer to his God from the holiest site in Israel. And then I thought it would be even cooler to give it to a newspaper. Then, the newspaper thought it would be a journalistic coup to print it! And then the newspaper falsely claims (ie, lies) that the Obama campaign pre-approved his prayer for publication in the international press but is now unable to provide any evidence of that claim and in fact says "we never said that." This is the Trifecta of Assh*lery if I've ever witnessed it. Oh and I've left out Ma'ariv's claim that since Obama is not a Jew he has no right to privacy at the wall anyway. I'd have added that in, but I don't know the four-factor word for Trifecta. In any case, I hope the student gets his ass kicked and I hope that somehow the sanctity of that site can be restored. And the people who were certain that this whole scenario was planned by the Obama campaign can just accept that it's okay to not vote for him without being so credulous about every negative charge that comes down the pike.

Next up, re the potential choice of Tim Kaine as Obama's VP. I haven't had time to fully think it through, so that will be a separate post. But I will suggest that Mr. Kaine work on losing the J. Jonah Jameson look before November:

Oh, and here's a link to a story about Delta Airlines who made a woman with Muscular Dystrophy crawl off a plane to get her connecting flight. It goes on to list the additional indignities inflicted on this poor woman, who finally got out of Atlanta hours later.
If you send your kids or aging parents on a flight without you, you can now officially be afraid.

And on that happy note, you have yourself a nice Wednesday.

Monday, July 28, 2008

John McCain: Desperate and Lying

Oh, John. What kind of honorable man runs an ad like yours, saying:

Announcer: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hadn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain. Country first.

John McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

Kind of bitchy, no? Especially when the footage of Obama playing basketball was not from Germany. Especially when, as the link above explains, "Reporters were not allowed to accompany him when he visited wounded troops at Walter Reed Medical Center on June 28. The small "protective pool" of reporters that routinely accompanies him was told by Obama's staff to remain outside, in the van, according to a reporter covering the campaign. Similarly, Obama visited wounded troops in Baghdad earlier in his overseas trip, but he did so without reporters and "without a lot of fanfare, just to say 'Thanks'," according to Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who accompanied Obama....

It says he "voted against funding our troops." He did – exactly once. Obama cast at least 10 votes for war-funding bills before voting against one last year, after Bush vetoed a version that contained a date for withdrawal from Iraq.

It says he "hasn't been to Iraq for years." He was headed there at the time the ad was released, however, and had been there in 2006.

It says he "never held a single hearing on Afghanistan." It was the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee, not Obama's subcommittee, that had the hearings on this global hot spot, and Obama attended one of those. Over the same time period, McCain himself attended none of the Afghanistan hearings held by the Armed Services Committee on which he serves.

That is some serious Rovian admaking there. Why would the Great White Hope approve such an ad if he's really running the campaign of integrity he promised? And why ding your opponent for commitee hearings that you yourself never attended?!! That is some breathtaking balls right there.

One key Republican consultant has said, [via WaPo]"One GOP strategist with close ties to McCain's campaign said the new line of attack reflected the operation's "schizophrenic" nature. He said that tendency was also on display last week, as McCain spoke at length about media coverage of Obama rather than sticking with his plan to focus on the economy.

"They couldn't help themselves," the strategist said, adding that the ad over the hospital visit is "churlish and unlike McCain, and hardly will resonate with the swing voters who are going to decide this election." The strategist continued: "They're doing it because the candidate, and the campaign, is not happy with where they are and they're lashing out."

Yup. You know it's going badly when your own party's strategists call you "churlish." And you know you've got a winner of a candidate when his response to frustration is to "lash out." America needs more of that.

ps--Balloon Juice has a great rundown of McCain's "respectful" campaign over the past week. It's right on--and funny in that it's entitled Slime of the Ancient Mariner. That's awesome.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Buenos Sunday

Quelle weekend. And it ain't even over yet.

We spent Friday night/Sat AM (from 1am till about 5:30am) at the ER with Bambina, who woke up crying and would not stop, saying her head was hurting. After my health challenges I freely admit to being the kind of mom who calls the doctor at the slightest whiff of something uncommon. I understand that this is potentially annoying to doctors who must take my calls at 2am. I also do not really care. I'm comfortable treating colds, headaches, tummy aches and whatnot. But when your kid is literally crying uncontrollably and inconsolably while saying her head hurts, I don't think it's a sign of Munchausen-by-proxy to bring in the people who, you know, actually went to medical school.

So off we went to the ER, after calling the doctor who said that if she wasn't better in 30 minutes, after some tylenol, to take her in. I was starting to feel a little stupid when Bambina started asking to hear music, was seeming happier and not crying. Then just as we pulled into the entrance circle, she barfed all over the car, thereby confirming that we needed to be there.

Can I tell you how awesome our local ER is? Its specialty is pediatrics, and it shows. The last time Bambina was sick was January, but you'll recall I couldn't go in with her at that time and instead had to sit in the car for 4 hours, peering in the building windows. This time I got the full show, and it makes me grateful to live here where the emergency health care is high-quality and available. This hospital is tricked out. My first comment to the BBDD as we walked in was, "Man, no GSWs to the head at this hospital, huh?"

We were seen pretty quickly (note to aspiring ER physicians: call me and I'll let you know the identity of this hospital because it looks like a sweet gig), and it became the consensus that Bambina had a virus that seems to be going around. I hadn't heard of anything "going around" however. Until I asked Bambina about her friend Karen from camp, ie, where is Karen this week? I didn't see her or her mommy at school. "Oh, she out sick every day." You gotta love the petrie dish that is a preschool. After some anti-nausea meds, some more Tylenol and Motrin, and a wee bit of a (slightly annoyed?) comment from the doctor about *under*medicating my kid (I live in fear of overdosing my little under-30 pounder), we finally got home around 6am. And thank god she went to sleep.

And speaking of the petrie dish that is a preschool, I'm also finally navigating my way around The Mommies. Preschool Mommies are a tough crowd. I was struggling a little bit to feel comfortable, which is pretty unusual for me, which was therefore making me more uncomfortable. But having a friend actually say, "I wouldn't use how you're feeling about preschool mommies as an accurate bellwether of your social skills" really clued me in. Remember all those times you thought how funny it would be to be back in high school--only as you now and not you then? How much more fun you'd have, how much less sh*t you'd put up with, how much less of a jerk you'd probably be to others, and how much less you'd care what they thought of you? You can achieve that, friends. Simply have a child and enroll her in preschool. At least in the case of this preschool, I have realized that if I approach it like I'm in high school I can survive and thrive. There are Queen Bees. There are jocks. There are geeks. And there are cliques. Oh, how there are cliques. Perhaps depending on the community in which you live, they all bring themselves and their baggage to the task of raising their kids. And it comes out in parental interactions at the preschool. I realized that I wasn't hitting it off with the moms of the girls Bambina plays with, not because I'm socially retarded, but because We Have Nothing In Common (did I mention that at 36 I'm the oldest mother there--by years?). And you know what? That's okay. I don't need to be their friends; we just need to hang out for an hour every week if our daughters want to play. Obviously it's wonderful when you do find that love connection between kid and parent, but it's notable simply because it is not an entirely common occurrence. Now that I'm comfortable with not needing to love these women and be their BFF, I'm completely at ease with just hanging out for our 90 minutes as necessary.

Much like in high school, I am realizing that I'm not a clique-type of girl. I like to hover between and among groups of different people. I love my close friends but I'm not averse to making new ones. So if a new mom shows up with a new kid, I'm going to say hi and talk to her (which is how Bambina and Karen became friends). And also, much like high school, I make friends in the unlikeliest of places. Bambina had a playdate at our house with a little friend whose dad came with her. Well, what can I say? It was a weird playdate. Not for Bambina, but for me. He is Israeli (which if you ever want proof that American Jews and Israelis are completely different cultural animals, you should come to my house). He is rather forward. He is very blunt. He has no concept of personal space. It wasn't a bad playdate at all; it just took a little getting used to. But it went well enough that we scheduled another one at his and his wife's place, and I was a little excited if for no other reason than I wanted to see what this guy would do next.

Well, hello! This couple is lovely, their daughter and Bambina are good matches in energy and bossiness, and it felt like the most effortless 2 hours (yeah, it went so well we didn't notice 2 hours had gone by) I'd ever spent with a preschool parent in my life. We even talked about the cliquey-ness of the parents in the context of them wondering whether that was particular to that school or to Americans in general (I guess culture shock goes both ways). I said it probably depends on the particular alchemy used to create each preschool class each year; some years will just gel and others will not.

Which is really the larger lesson, isn't it? It's not that the other moms aren't likable or that I'm a social moron. It's just that sometimes a friendship falls into your lap sans effort, while other times you only find it by being open to making a little bit of effort--or at the very least to not making a snap judgment. Other times you don't find a friendship at all. There's nothing wrong with any of those options. But in any case, you're giving your kid a model for how to interact with other people. What I hope I'm giving mine is a sense that she can navigate the social waters of life as her authentic self, without having to find comfort in either aggressive lonerhood or exclusive cliquehood. That while there is safety in numbers, whether it be one or twelve, that there is great joy to be had in being open to new people and new experiences, even if at first they seem uncomfortable. Because you never know what close-talking, space-invading, blunt-speaking person is going to turn out to be a friend.

Come to think of it, I'm certainly glad MY friends tolerated it in me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Devil Riders of Darfur

That's a link to an excerpt from the book Tears of the Desert: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Horrors of Darfur by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis.

I'm not sure I can bear to read the whole book, so devastating is this brief account of this doctor's life in Darfur during attacks by the Janjaweed. It's truly gut-wrenching and horrifying. And a timely reminder that we are standing by while it goes on...

Like School in July


It would appear (as if we should be surprised) that there is a dearth of class in public discourse these days.

To wit:

Jesse Jackson. Contrary to popular belief, using “The N Word” does not make you a minority person utilizing in-group vernacular. It makes you classless. I remember in high school that some girls would jokingly refer to each other as “b*tch” or ”slut” when saying hi. I never understood it, and never got on board with that practice. Maybe because I had had the words used unpleasantly against me and therefore found them unpalatable, but perhaps also just because it seemed low-brow. Which of course sounds “elitist” and snobby to say, but it’s true: calling someone you like a bitch or a slut for fun is just so, as we used to say in Britain, “common.” As is calling someone a n***er. It’s just a word that shouldn’t be used. By anyone.

John McCain. The good senator from Arizona just made the following statement: Senator Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign…” That’s not only a monstrous charge to make against a fellow American (some would call an attempt to lose a war “treason”), but it simply shows a total lack of class. Not to mention his complaint that Obama shouldn't have made a speech outside the USA until he was President. So how to explain McCain's speech last month in Canada? Does that not count because it's, you know, Canada? Or because no one even remembers he was there? The McCain campaign makes me sad to watch. Well, it makes me happy because they are running it so poorly. But it is indeed sad to watch on a political junkie level. McCain's best response to Obama's speech would have been no response at all, like he's so not interested in Obama talking to Europeans. Griping about it just makes him look petulant and classless, especially when you recall that his campaign was the primary reason Obama had to go, what with the constant accusations that Obama hadn't visited Iraq, had no foreign experience, etc.

Elaine Donnelly. The woman who testified before Congress against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Her remarks, which take the cake for no class in that they were delivered while sitting next to two decorated veterans who happen to be gay, one of whom was injured in Iraq (from the WaPo):
Donnelly treated the panel to an extraordinary exhibition of rage. She warned of "transgenders in the military." She warned that lesbians would take pictures of people in the shower. She spoke ominously of gays spreading "HIV positivity" through the ranks. "We're talking about real consequences for real people," Donnelly proclaimed. Her written statement added warnings about "inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community," the prospects of "forcible sodomy" and "exotic forms of sexual expression." Seems to me that someone has been putting a lot of thought and time into supposedly deviant sexual practices. One wonders why...

And, to finish this post off, here's an article about an elderly couple in--of course--Florida who insist that the common area in front of their condo is private and therefore spit on their neighbor every time he walks by. Now THAT is class, Greatest Generation-style!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Tonight I Swear

So the interview yesterday went pretty well except for my lack of advance work in preparation. I hadn't realized that I was being interviewed by one of the "sports babes" from NESN, so I looked like a shmo when I asked her if she worked for Dana Farber. Way to start things off, E. When she told me she was an anchor at NESN I instantly realized "of course!" because she has that TV Lady look that people showing up to work at a hospital (even the media department of a major one) don't have. I tried to make up for it by assuring her that my husband and father in law no doubt know her very well. I'm just not a big TV watcher. [note to self: stop digging!]

So we did the interview then we did a bunch of B-roll with my donor. It could have been awkward but since my donor and I get along so well, it was easy to sit at a table and chat while being filmed because...well, we just sat at a table and chatted while being filmed. No acting required. We also had to do some walking shots, some door-opening shots, some huggy-huggy shots. I was a little bummed when the cameraman didn't go for my idea of having me, my donor and the interviewer do that Charlie's Angels pose in front of the DF sign. ;) I'm just saying it would have been some good TV...


Anyway, that's where you can see me in August.

In the meantime, I've got nothing for ya. Sure, there's plenty going on. And you can read all about them via the links at the right.

I'll post tonight, after Barack's Berlin speech, John McCain's latest basic knowledge flub, and John Edwards' next non-denial denial.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Get Thee Behind Me, Tetanus

Today was Vaccinations #2 Day: Hib, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus and pneumoccocus somethingorother. These ones hurt waay more than the last ones, if you can't tell from my perplexed expression:

I'm now off to conquer AM radio. That's right folks. In my quest to become the Empress of Cause-Based Media, I'm doing an interview for the upcoming Jimmy Fund telethon on WEEI. I thought, "Cool, it's for radio." Turns out it's also being taped for the big screen at Fenway Park. Okaaay. Had I known that looks would count, I would have made my blue rinse and blow-out appointment long before now. So it will be what it will be: my funky hair, moon face and me. My donor will also be there, so it will be great to see her again without the pressure of a public luncheon breathing down our necks.

Speaking of breathing down my neck (or not), my next Dana Farber appointment isn't for 3 months! How insane is that?! I sat there today, eating my corn muffin from Dunkin Donuts and drinking my decaf tea, watching a woman in a bandanna eating a pop tart gingerly while lifting her mask. It really smacked me in the face that I was that woman not so long ago. It made me feel for her, knowing how much suckage that is. But it also made me want to get out of there; to escape the constant reminders of how sick I was and felt. How nice is that?

I'm definitely still in the post-transplant process, will still be immune-suppressed for probably another year, won't ever really be able to say "no worries!" even if just for psychological reasons. But I really just want to get beyond being the Sick Girl and get back to being Just E. I remember a few years after Gilda Radner's death Gene Wilder (her husband) finally announced that he was "cancered out" and didn't want to do all these interviews about Gilda anymore. That's kind of how I feel at this point. Not about the interviews, because that's actually where I see me being able to do some life-affirming, positive work that removes me from the large pool of Sick People. But just in having my life more or less revolve around my health; I'm kind of over it. I'm "aplasticked out." So much of the past few years has been devoted to my diagnosis, then my failing health, then my oh-my-god-I'm-f*cked health, then my transplant, then my recovery, then my GVH; and I'm just kind of done giving anymore time to a disease I no longer have. I want to move beyond. Which is not to say that my GVH isn't still bugging me, and that I don't have daily stuff to deal with on the health front (Who doesn't?! I'm special?). But just that it's something I want to incorporate into my life and live around, rather than having it be the sole focus.

I guess what I'm saying is this: it's absolutely a miracle that I'm alive, and the best way I can think of to show gratitude for that fact is to really, truly live. Not under the cloud of disease, not under fear that the bottom is going to fall out, not with a constant eye to the challenges of the past.

Or, put another way, the best way I can thank my donor for her gift is to use that gift wisely.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Best Thing In Life To Hold On To Is Each Other

"Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. "It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition."
---Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health

We attended a really lovely wedding this weekend, that of our cousin and his fiance, now husband. The ceremony was so nice, made sweeter by the fact that these two amazing guys are now OFFICIALLY and LEGALLY as married as I am. That's pretty wonderful. Bambina had a great time, although trying to get her to understand that we don't get to go watch the string quartet play up front during the wedding was a bit hard. Not to mention her desperate need to go to the potty just as the wedding party was heading down the aisle (which was the only path to said potty). Not to mention, on the way back from the potty, that she noticed a guest with red (not ginger, like "redhead," but actual red-red dyed hair) and decided to yell out, "Dada! Look at the man with the red...!" before I got my hand over her mouth. Oh yes, good times. But she did as well as she could for her age. I, at my advanced age, am still recovering. As always, Bambina seemed ambivalent during the event itself, but today could not stop talking about it. We even had to make a chuppah (wedding canopy) out of tin foil, tape it up across the living room, and stand under it while she officiated at the wedding of her two sheep, Baa and Orange, both of whom are "girl sheep." Then she had me and the BBDD get under it and "say love things to each other" while she officiated again. She thinks more weddings should happen. I say they should too. And I'll be sure to tell her all about them when I get back from attending them sans fille. ;)

We started the morning putting my old memorabilia in the attic. I'm a total packrat of the worst kind: sentimental. So every note my BFF Amanda and I wrote in 6th grade was stuffed in a shoe box. Every report card was jammed in an envelope. Every photo of me and my pals in 4th grade was shoved in whatever space I could find. Every fire marshal of every town in which I've lived has wanted to shut my home down with all deliberate speed.

As I was going through all my stuff (some would say "all my crap"), I finally asked myself what I was saving this stuff for. So I started giving it all to Bambina for her dress up and play time. Like, do I need to maintain the sanctity of my 5th grade spelling bee medal? Really? Or my Scottish Brownie uniform? What did I save these nothings for if not for my kid to enjoy? So someone can trot out my 3rd grade creative writing essay at my funeral and say, "Wow... this kid wrote well for a 9 year old"? Who cares?!! It finally occurred to me that I was saving them for This Day and for This Girl. So Bambina is now completely stoked to have a whole slew of new outfits, gadgets and thingamabobs, and my crawl space is one box lighter.

And speaking of lighter, so is my heart. When my Dad died, I got his watch. Not a fancy watch, not an expensive watch. Just a big, blue JP-style watch that I can still picture on his wrist every day. Sure, I got other things of his, like letters and papers (see "packrat" above), which are the really valuable stuff. But the one tangible "thingy" thing I got of his was his watch. I wore it every day after he died. Until one day during our last days in DC I must have taken it off. And somewhere between DC and Boston it went missing. Long-time sufferers (I mean, readers) will recall that our car was broken into the morning we were leaving DC to get here for my transplant. I assumed when I couldn't locate the watch that I had, in my fatigue, packed it in the stolen suitcase. All last year I searched everywhere for the watch but finally had to come to accept that it was gone. Accept it I did, but with a great deal of regret. I told myself that people are not things, that not having his watch is as meaningless as not having his toothbrush. That I don't need his watch to still have him with me. That it was just a watch for god's sake, and my Dad more than anyone would have told me to get over it since he got it at the HEB in San Antonio anyway, and what the hell value is a supermarket aisle watch?!

Well, today we finally cleared our remaining stuff from DC out of "family storage" at Gram and Pop's house. I was not super-psyched to go through our boxes, knowing that our amazing friends had all come together and packed them for us in one day. ONE DAY, y'all. And you know who you are, my lovelies. Which is to say that the BBDD essentially told people to empty drawers and shelves into boxes with extreme prejudice. So I knew I had a task ahead of me, but wanted to clear the clutter before trash day on Tuesday. I think, in all honesty, I felt some trepidation going through stuff from that time because I just remember it all feeling so dark and scary and rushed and insane, so seeing things that were on my kitchen counter the day I left my house for the last time post-haste, in a mask, with no immune system, no bone marrow, and a then-uncertain future just takes me back to times I don't want to relive, even in reverse. But I figured it was time to just rip that scab off and git 'er done.

So I jumped in, filing, trashing, cleaning, assessing all of the random things in each box. I was at the very bottom of the last huge box when I saw it: A very large blue watch sitting in a little bowl I kept on my kitchen counter, no doubt sitting in the very same location in which I left it before washing dishes or something. And in our blurred rush to get me packed for Dana Farber, I must have left the house without it that early morning, only I assumed I had it because I always, always wore it. And being met with a smashed car window and missing property, I'm certain I didn't run back in the house to take a last look around before getting on the road to what I hoped was life.

I grabbed the watch, turned it over and over in my hands like it was the Hope Diamond, ran upstairs to where the BBDD and Bambina were playing, held it up in the air, yelled, "I found it! I found it!"...and promptly burst into tears. I emptied the rest of the box with tears dropping onto the remaining contents. I laughed. I smiled. I think I cried for about half an hour on and off, because every time I'd pull myself together with a "this is so cool," I'd set myself off again with a similar but different, "this is so cool."

Because it's true: people really aren't the things they leave behind. They are no less still with you whether or not you have that wagon wheel coffee table or those singing salt and pepper shakers. But at the same time, having that one meaningful thing--just a thing though it may be--lets me hold onto the daily, mundane memories of life with my Dad: the guy with the priceless, irreplaceable plastic watch from Aisle 6.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

To the Maxi

It's time for me to buy one of those Birds and Bees books for Bambina. Why? Because I found myself completely unable yesterday to explain menstruation to a four year-old in a way that would a) make sense, and b) not be scary to a four year-old.

Why did I need to explain menstruation to a 4 year old? Because she pulled out of my closet the following:

Or, more accurately, she pulled out a few individual (I hate the word:) pantiliners. Wanted to know what they were for. Are they stickers?!! Can we use them for a project?! Can I wear one?

I started off shaky and got worse from there: "Well, those are for grown up ladies." Not good enough for Bambina. "When a lady is old enough to have a baby, every month she...blah blah" Not good enough for Bambina. But then she kind of lost interest in the reason for the pads and went instead to Can We Play With It? So before I could comment she had stuck it to a piece of paper and was using it as a pretend bicycle seat. (You'll note the thong-style pantiliner has a sort-of bike seat shape).

I thought I was out of the woods until she came back to why these crazy things exist. So I tried again, taking care to not say anything about blood coming out of you, knowing that this would be TMI in a big way for a 4 year old. Which evolved into a discussion of why, if a lady can have a baby in her tummy, she wouldn't. So I told her that some ladies decide to adopt babies rather than have them in their tummies. Some ladies can't have them in their tummies, either because their or the daddy's seeds might not...blah blah...but some other ladies for lots of reasons choose to adopt a baby instead of having one come out of their tummy. And boy am I glad I got to be her mommy by adoption. Which seemed to make her happy--but sadly no less interested in riding around on her Always Pantiliner bicycle.

So I now have some breathing room to find the right book, because it's clear that we are now beyond the facile, "Babies come from a lady's tummy" explanation. Bambina wants to know how the baby gets in there (and the "the daddy puts a seed into the mommy explanation made her roll her eyes, like, "are you on drugs, mama? Plants have seeds; people don't"). She wants to know how it gets out. She wants to know why her vagina should be private (e.g., that no one should be touching it except herself, mama, and a doctor with mama present in the room). I was especially concerned about what to tell her because the timing of the discussion predated our visit with our very pregnant aunt and uncle by about 6 minutes. Knowing Bambina's relentless quest for information on any topic she feels important, I simply did not want her walking in there and asking Uncle if and how he put his seed into Aunt J. I figured no one would thank me for that little reality TV moment. Although I shouldn't have worried too much, because at this point it turns out that the reality of the fact that There Is An Actual Baby In There completely escapes Bambina. When the baby is here, she'll work backward and get it. But right now, she accepts that Aunt J has a baby in there but can't see the baby so thinks it's all a bit overblown.

Clearly, as much of a feminist womyn as I was in college and all down with sex ed for minors, I am facing the realization that my meager skills, while well-suited to the campus cohort, are no match for a 4 year old.

God is the Greatest. In Any Language?

There is a LUDICROUS post at No Quarter, the pro-Hillary, anti-Obama site. It says that Nick Kristoff at the New York Times "is in possession of a tape" that could be extremely damaging to the Obama campaign.

The "damaging" tape? It contains Obama reciting the Muslim call to prayer--in Arabic! Which of course means he's a Muslim, because anyone who knows an Islamic prayer in Arabic must have been Muslim at some point in his life. If he's not one still.

So, the fact that I studied Arabic and can recite the Sura al Fatiha from memory (and with feeling, seeing as its words are pretty close to the "baruch atta Adonai" words spoken in Jewish blessings): Does that make me a closet Muslim? Does the fact that I can recite The Lord's Prayer (in English!) make me a secret Christian?

What kind of xenophobic, ignorant a**hole credibly posits that knowing a prayer from another religious tradition means that you secretly were or are that religion? God forbid an American Christian have knowledge of something completely outside his own tradition; that immediately makes him suspect. Because a good American Christian wouldn't have the time of day to learn an Islamic prayer in Arabic. And if he learned it as a kid in school in a "foreign" land, then well, we all know what that means about his patriotism, don't we? Think about it: if you lived in an Islamic nation, you would have heard the Islamic Call To Prayer 5 times a day. How would you NOT have memorized it? I'm sure you saw fewer than 5 McDonalds commercials a day but you can still recite, "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce pickles cheese..." And let's be honest here: it's not like the Call To Prayer is some subversive, anti-American rant:

God is the Greatest
I bear witness that there is no deity but God
I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God
Make haste toward prayer
Make haste toward welfare
God is Greatest
There is no deity except Allah

Sounds rather familiar to any religious person, if you just change the names, doesn't it?

So why the problem with a presidential candidate knowing it?

Friday, July 18, 2008

On Vacation

Until Monday!

We've got long-distance uncles and very pregnant aunts visiting. We've got a wedding tomorrow (thank you, Massachusetts, for making it legal for two men to share their lives together). We've got visits with friends. Most excitingly for Bambina (and depressingly for me), we've got lunch at Bugaboo Creek. It's a chain restaurant with a "lodge" feel. It's main attraction to the chilluns, however, is the giant talking moosehead on the wall. Every 10 minutes or so the giant head animates and tells a Bob Hope-style joke. Bambina can barely contain herself the entire time she's there, either enjoying the talking moosehead or asking every 30 seconds when it's going to talk again.

Did I mention that I hate chain restaurants? I made a pact years ago to not set foot in an Olive Garden or somesuch place, and would instead make the effort to find mom and pop places that are probably healthier and less schlocky. Also because watching people gorge themselves on All You Can Eat stuff just grosses me out. I don't know why. Maybe it's the gluttony of it all; a table of two people getting a 2 gallon bowl of salad and a car tire-sized plate of shrimp scampi. It creeps me out. Hence the pact to avoid the chains.

But then you have a kid who loves talking mooseheads, and all of a sudden you're back in All You Can Eat Salad and Breadsticks territory.

Viva la vacation!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I can't bring myself to talk about serious things like Israel or the New Yorker cover (oh wait, that's not serious). Instead, let's do fluff!

First up, I'm so psyched. My old boyfriend before Barack, Michael J. Fox, is set to appear in the Spring 2009 season of Rescue Me (that Denis Leary vehicle for showing his big white ass). Yay! Life is always better with Michael J. on my TV.

Next, I never thought I'd say this, but: I wish I had a 63 year-old woman's body. Check out Helen Mirren on vacation in Italy. She's pretty hot, isn't she?! What a dame!

I console myself with the knowledge that I already have her hair color. Can the rockin' body be far behind? I think not. ;)

Next, some celebs without makeup and some dermatologist opinions on the state of their faces. Note the frequency of the statement, "this shows sun damage." (This obligatory sunscreen exhortation brought to you by SSHaggis).

And finally, kids, if you don't already feel old enough, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the release of Die Hard. Here's a blog post with waaaay too much information about the movie, which I of course read all the way through:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What’s On TV

It’s time for the monthly review of the Haggis’ netflix queue. Friends, if you like a good show and don’t mind some serious smut, Californication is for you. The show stars David Duchovny (in a very un-Fox Mulder role) as a successful/one hit wonder author whose personal and professional worlds in LA are crumbling. (His hit book God Hates Us All was turned into a movie called Crazy Little Thing Called Love, marking the beginning of his downfall. Or is it really his redemption?). It’s well-written, well-acted and dirty as all get out. For real. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. There are some scenes in this show that, boy howdy, are a dirtybird's dream come true. But the show is so good that I’ve gotten over my shock and horror at the smuttiness factor. If you rent this, I wish you godspeed. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Next up, The State Within. A British drama set in the US, with that lovely British Jewish studmuffin Jason Isaacs in the role of the British Ambassador to the US. It also stars Sharon Gless as the US SecDef, in a gig that the BBDD summarized as, “Who they called when they knew Glenn Close wouldn’t touch this role.” It follows the clues of a terrorist airliner explosion down the rabbit warren into both US and UK governments, soldiers for hire, death row, and various other nefarious locations. And, as with all British shows, they don’t care who they kill off, so don’t be thinking Jack Bauer will be coming back every episode no matter what. People die in British shows, which is what makes them so good. You just never know who’s going to get it in the end. Only 6 episodes, but all of them good.

Next up, There Will Be Blood. More like There Will Be Boredom. Dear God, this we had to stop about 3/4 of the way through so painfully dull it was. To me, this movie illustrates the definition of “excruciating.” I just kept waiting for something to happen. Spoiler Alert: Nothing happened. I wish you godspeed on this movie too, by which I mean that it's the only speed you'll be getting while this drivel is unreeling.

Finally, another Will Ferrell joint called Semi-Pro. Peter Travers in Rolling Stone said it best: It's semi-funny. I happen to love Will Ferrell movies. Something about his doughy body and willingness to 100% commit to the stupid makes me laugh out loud while simultaneously offering total respeck to his comedic genius. That said, Ferrell has fallen into the M. Night Shyamalan curse: when your first movies are flat-out awesome, anything else you make that's just really good is seen as mediocre. He stars as a one hit wonder in the 1970's who uses his money from the song "Love Me Sexy" (which is hilarious to listen to, btw) to buy the Flint Michigan Tropics ABA basketball team. The movie traces the team through the implosion of the ABA in the mid-70's. The supporting cast shines in this film. Woody Harrelson, who I generally can't stand, is great. As is Andre "Andre 3000" Benjamin as "Coffee Black." The only lame part is Maura Tierney (she of ER fame) as the love interest. She's boring in everything she does, and Semi-Pro is no exception. So if you want a semi-decently funny time--but not a gut-bustingly funny one--Semi-Pro is your movie.

And the balcony is closed...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

I know I'm once again late to the party on this book, but it is awesome. It's called Six Word Memoirs, by SMITH Magazine. It is, as you can imagine, people's life stories in six words.

Some of them funny, sad, poignant. All are remarkable:

Oldest of five. Four degrees. Broke.

Should have used condom that time.

Lucky in love, unlucky in metabolism.

Awkward girl takes chances. Fun ensues.

Not a good Christian, but trying.

I fell in love with Charlie.

Years in the closet. Why? Why?

Which got me to thinking. What would my six word memoir be? What would YOURS be? You can go to and put it there. Or you can put it here so we can read it and maybe know you a little better, whoever you are.

Before Bambina my memoir would have been something like: Poor Scottish girl lives American dream. Or Thin Extrovert. Fat and shy inside.

But these days I didn't have to think too hard to arrive at my real memoir. It sums up my reasons for living and what I feel were all my life experiences leading up to it as preparation:

And then she called me Mama.

What's yours?

Bailouts, Etc.

I'm just going to say it: I'm more than happy to pay to help bail out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And just as soon as they start turning a mad profit again in a few years, I'll be just as eager to receive my dividend check. You know, the one that will be going to every American taxpayer who chipped in this year to save their asses.

Oh. What? You mean it doesn't work that way? What? What moron would create an entity in which the profits remain private but the pain is taken public? What kind of corporate welfare would allow such a situation to exist? Sometimes I can be so naive...

Speaking of naive, I have no story relating to naivete. I simply needed a paragraph transition there. Although I can regale you with multiple kiddie stories, if you can stomach even one more from my Mama Chronicles. We went to a boy's 4th birthday party on Sunday. It was, let's say, a Handy Manny themed party. We did all the activities even though Bambina was so not interested, in my attempt to teach her about being "a good guest" at a party. The party was going along swimmingly when a knock at the garden gate revealed a visit from none other than!!!!...the real-live Handy Manny!!! Total bedlam ensued, but not for obvious reasons. The kids completely freaked out with fear upon seeing this life-sized being that they'd only previously seen him about 6 inches high on the television. Added to the drama was the fact that it was a wee bit of a "low-rent" version of the costume, so even to my adult eye, there was something kind of "Chucky" about the large head rather than benignly Disney/Nickelodeon-ish. So kids started crying or backing away from the creature. Only about 2 kids went near it. Even the birthday boy was terror-stricken behind his mom's legs. And the worst part? All the adults started laughing. I personally simply could not control myself. It was just so hilarious to have this beloved character walk in the gate and have mass panic ensue. It literally took about 10 minutes to restore order once the parents pulled ourselves together and the offending Manny left the area, with Bambina continuing to wonder if he really was gone, like did he get on a plane or is he out there walking the streets? The sad thing? It still makes me laugh, which might make me a child sadist. I don't know.

What I do know, after being a mom for a grand total of 4ish years now, is that life is a whole lot happier--and easier--when you accept your child for who she is. My kid hates kiddie chaos, doesn't like people in her face, and generally has no time for people she doesn't know, especially adults. Beyond trying to teach her basic manners and doing the required work to encourage her out of her shell, I've really come to the firm conclusion that so much damage can be done to your relationship with your kid if you cross that line between "nudging onward through uncomfortable situations as a means of building confidence" and trying to change your kid's personality. My daughter is exceedingly outgoing and talkative once she knows you. Or in small groups of kids. But put her in a 20-kid birthday party free-for-all and she's not having a happy day. I was asking her if she wanted to do the pin-the-tail game and she kept saying no. But I kept asking on the theory that hey! It's a party! Have some fun! And then she said, "Mama, I already said no 89 times! That rude to keep asking." And she's right. If I were out with my friends and one of them didn't want to do karaoke or whatnot, I wouldn't hector her for 10 minutes to keep checking if maybe she really did maybe perhaps want to do something that is not in her nature. I'd say "cool" and let it go. So why the difficulty with our kids? Because we don't want them to miss out on stuff? Maybe. Or maybe, in my case if I'm honest, I wasn't TRULY accepting Bambina for who she is; wasn't truly accepting unconditionally the personality that God gave her, but rather was trying to give her my own or one that would make life easier on me. I recalled that, as outgoing (some might say exhibitionist) as I am today, I was a painfully shy, fat, nervous kid till about 8th grade. For real. My mom didn't take a crap alone till I went to school, so nellie-ish was I about being away from her. There wasn't a birthday party I attended where I didn't end up crying about something or other in a way that I'm sure just ruined my mom's buzz. I was light years beyond Bambina in my distaste for crowds, noise, agro and chaos. I was that girl who got stomach aches before gym class, who didn't want to talk to kids I didn't know, and who if she were 9 years old in 2008 would no doubt be prescribed Paxil.

Somehow, amazingly I turned out just fine. Why? Because my parents didn't make me feel bad for being me. They didn't make me feel like there was something wrong with me for being shy. They didn't make me feel bad about being fat. My mom would always just say to people who brought up that risible statement, "She has such a pretty face!" "E will lose the weight when E is ready. Or maybe she won't." I never processed it at the time, but looking back there is no greater gift your parents can give you than saying in a variety of ways, "She is who she is and that's fine with us." So that's where I commit to being with Bambina. Because the truth is, who she is really IS fine with me. I love every atom of her so much it could hurt. But when the rubber hits the road and my kid is behaving less-than-sparkly in public, do I have the courage of my convictions to defend her and let her be her God-given self even if I think it somehow reflects poorly on me? The answer is "of course."

To the point of Bambina being fabulously and wonderfully who she is, she told us today that for Halloween she is going to dress up as "a vitamin bottle:"

How awesome is that?! Especially when she added that I should be a microwave, the BBDD should be an oven, Gram should be a table and Pop should be a TV. I asked if I couldn't just be a witch or something and she said, "Mama No! That boring!" I want to say that she rolled her eyes as she said it, but I'm blocking that memory out until she's officially 13 and supposed to be embarrassed by me.

In the meantime, if you have any idea how to make a person look like a small kitchen appliance, I'm all ears.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nocturnal Admissions

I'm up again. Woke up at 1am and couldn't get back to sleep. I now have the cleanest home office, all you friends with August birthdays have your cards written and addressed, and I've made some headway in organizing our online photos. Now I'm exhausted and settling in to watch TV in the hopes of maybe catching another hour before Bambina decrees that it is "morning time!"

Just in case you are a person who sleeps at night, let me tell you what you are missing on television:

1. The Knife Show. That's right. A whole hour of opportunities to purchase various swords, scabbards and daggers. It's a medieval home shopping network.

2. No fewer than three entertainment programs featuring that new Eddie Murphy movie "Meet Dave." Does it even need to be said that a) Eddie should cease making movies, and b) you know the movie is going to be god-awful when the voice over begins, "Starring Eddie Murphy...and Eddie Murphy!" I mean, how many movies can this man make in which he plays every character? What, does he get overtime or something? Make him stop.

3. A rerun of Larry King Live in which we ponder whether UFOs are targeting the Great State of Texas.

4. Suze Orman hectoring some poor woman about her interest in buying a $14,000 quilting machine.

5. An infomercial for a 4-DVD set on Making Instant Internet Cash. It features various people standing in front of palatial homes or horses with graphics like, "Made over $100,000!" Followed by a large-breasted woman speaking to her large-breasted friend in a poor-man's-IKEA living room talking about her friend who made "serious instant cash!" You can always tell you're viewing a legitimate offer when everyone in the commercial is talking about "the product" and "the system." You just wonder if the shmos calling in have read the fine print on the screen saying, "Unique experience. Individual results may vary."

6. Various other informercials for weight loss, penis enlargement/stamina enhancement, and of course all the home shopping jewelry channels.

7. Jesus Jesus Jesus. However you like The Word, you can get it on one of about 33 channels. Gospel-inspired? Check. Classic big-haired Trinity Broadcasting style? Check. Young and hip Christian pop? Check.

8. Any number of rap/hip hop videos that are inexplicably not parodies. I mean, how many times can you make a video with women dancing "up in da club" while you do that beatdown move, then cut to scenes of men and women dancing in slo-mo as you tell your "baby girl" or your "shorty" something she needs to hear? How early '00's is that?! And why are Diddy and Usher in 50% of them?

And now I will attempt to get some shut eye, without even giving you a decent segue from that last item. Put it on my tab.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Only Human

Buenos Friday, darlings.

Not too much to post today (kind of the story of the past few weeks, no?). I'm just ready for the weekend. I'm still on prednisone, which means I still have constant insomnia, which means I still am getting about 3 hours of sleep a night, which means I am still exhausted pretty much all the time. What's interesting is how adaptable humans are when it really counts. I was thinking yesterday that if you'd ever told me that I'd have to survive on 3 hours of sleep a night for months at a time, I'd have certainly pronounced it impossible. And yet here we are, making it work on 3 hours a night. As high maintenance creatures as humans are, we are also capable of making our minds and bodies do whatever needs to be done at a given time. The same holds true even retrospectively. When I was in graduate school I also worked full time, so my daily schedule was as follows:

5am: wake up
7am: start work
5pm: leave work
7pm: go to class
10:30pm: leave class/travel home
midnight: go to bed

As I look back on that, I simply cannot conceive of how I did that. I recall it being difficult and involving lots of eating things like ramen noodles or big soft pretzels while on the go. I remember drinking so much caffeine that for years after getting my degree I couldn't stand the smell of coffee. I remember having no real social life since weekends were when I did the homework from the week before. But I don't recall ever feeling as if it was unbearable; yet when I think back I can't imagine how it wasn't.

I think the same is true for health issues. I've recently been in touch with an old high school friend who has had terrible health problems since her early 20's. Each time she was getting better, something else would happen and leave her with damaged nerves, no ability to walk for a while, you name it. And yet here she was telling me about her job, her family and her life in the context of "but I'm otherwise so very lucky and blessed." At each stage of her illness, she has just adapted to whatever limitations became reality, and as a result has maintained the same sunny and forceful persona I always remember her having.

Same with the people on the GVHD listserv I joined. Man, you want to feel like your little diarrhea problem is nothing? Sign on to a GVHD listserv and start counting your damn blessings. Wow. These people are suffering. Their lives are a hassle with a capital ASS. I joined to get some group thoughts on how to perhaps eat something other than bananas, rice, apples and toast without spending a day and a half on the commode. And just to get some sense of when this all might end, what ongoing prednisone and cellcept side effects others are seeing, etc. I've yet to ask my question, however, because it feels so minor. Like, I'm so sorry your lungs are shutting down, your skin is peeling off in painful layers, or that your 12 year old kid's joints no longer function so he's paralyzed, but can we talk lunch menus for me?! And while we're at it, let's play Spot the Listserv Ingrate, shall we?!

I generally am anti-listserv, on the theory that I hate open mics (and the weirdos they attract) and a listserv is nothing more than an online open mic night. But I joined in a fit of despair that I am basically eating 4 food items all the time, mealtimes are depressing, I'm losing muscle mass because most protein sources don't "sit" right with my colon, and I'm just so effing over this whole transplant aftermath (as grateful as I am to be alive to be facing it). And then I read the other messages. I only had to read about three of the ones about kids and I got the message I needed: it all sucks, but sometimes you have the kind of suck for which people would gladly exchange theirs. So perhaps you should be a wee bit grateful that a colon-under-attack is your only concern. And here again, the people on this list are just showing so much adaptability. Can't move your legs? Now you take your grandkids out in your wheelchair. Can't read anymore because your tear ducts are destroyed? You amass a library of books on tape. All of these stories are testaments to the ability of humans to adapt, survive and--yes--even thrive under some pretty crazy circumstances. And I realized that I don't need to ask my questions to feel better about my GVH. I already do feel better. Not because it doesn't suck; it does, and mightily. But because I realize how lucky I am, and also how--no matter what happens--I'm a human (with all of the failings and fortitude the word implies), and we always find a way to make it work.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stupid in Any Language

I was listening to talk radio yesterday morning (I know; stupid is as stupid does) where the discussion was Obama's call for Americans to ensure that their kids are bilingual. Seems like a fair enough call for education, job qualifications, a greater understanding of a culture not your own, right?

Oh, so wrong! According to the host of the show, it's a laughable premise, because why should Americans have to learn a language other than English?! As if God had intended anyone in the world to speak anything but English! And of course it then completely devolved into a discussion of immigrants failing to assimilate into "American" culture. The whole, "why should something be written in Spanish?!" argument. Which is a fair argument. But NOT what Obama was talking about. He said specifically, "Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they'll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language. You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right? You know, no, I'm serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job. You are so much more employable.

But why let the actual quote get in the way of three hours of a radio show, right? The most offensive part of the program (and the one that depressed me the most) was the host's derisive humor about other languages in general, and the very supportive calls he received in accord. He laughed openly about Wesleyan offering courses in Swahili. His comments ranged from "what tiny percent of the world's population speaks this language anyway, so why would you learn it?" to the idea that people from Africa are stowing away in barges to escape to the US, and here we are teaching people their language and sending them over there for god-knows-what-reason. I was so pissed off at his complete disregard for another language and culture. The fact that 50 million people speak this language was not persuasive to him; no, because that's only a tiny fraction of the world's population, so why would you learn that language? And just the way he kept overannunciating "Swa-hee-lee" made it clear what he thought of anyone learning such a ridiculous language. See? Because languages with funny names are not to be valued or learned or taught at an American university. And his callers agreed, although again, the discussion devolved into nitpicking the finer points of why immigrants won't assimilate and then conflating those ludicrous notions with Barack Obama's comments, neither of which are related to the other. But again, why let the truth get in the way of a talk radio show. Right? Because apparently the only language worth learning in that world is "insular jingoistic moron."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Healthier, But No Nicer

You know how people often emerge from a life-changing catastrophe to say that they are now a better, kinder, more decent human as a result? Yeah. I can't. I'm apparently just as unpleasant as I ever was. Case in point:

I went out the other night to my first solo event in about two years. I was a bit nervous, me being out of practice with the social skills and all, but it turned out to be total fun. I was glad to see that I can still fake a little confidence-while-walking-into-a-room-alone maneuver. Nice. That one has served me well for years, and I’m glad I haven’t lost it. Because once you fake your confidence on the way in, it just kind of stays with you for the night. I’m definitely not a work-myself-up-to-it kind of social person who enters quietly, sits around, gets my bearings and then gets social. I either have to enter the party balls-out or just stay home. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice (to quote Bill Murray).

When I arrived at the event there was a rather lovely looking man there already. I did the obligatory ring check to see if he was married or single. I introduced myself and started chatting with him and a couple of other people. As this was going on I was wondering why such a cute and seemingly charming man should still be single at the age of 38. (I know, I sound like someone's grandmother, don't I?) But seriously: some cute girl or guy should have snapped him up by now.

And then dinner/discussion time arrived, and it all became clear. Number One: Table manners or the lack thereof. It was an instantaneous turn-off. Here's this cute, successful, charming guy. Eating with two hands, licking his fingers, grabbing chips out of the bowl as if he's on Survivor and the person who gets the most in one handful wins the Immunity Challenge. I had to avert my eyes it was so distressing to see. And the lack of grace. Generally at a group meal you pass stuff around. When this guy got the plate, he took his food then put the plate down next to himself. So you'd have to say "Can you please pass the burger buns?" in order to get any dinner. I was imagining myself out at a restaurant with this guy on a first date and just recoiling in horror at watching Mr. Creosote masticate turkey burger with his mouth open.

Number Two: This event was a discussion group, so there was reading involved prior to attending. Now, if I hadn't really read I'd have kept my cakehole shut and interjected, "Yes, I agree" at various points to look participatory. Our formerly-cute friend over here apparently saw a lack of knowledge of the topic as no impediment to joining the discussion. He'd make pronouncements like, "The man's personal assistant, Charlie..." and someone would say, "Oh, was it Charlie? I thought it was Archie..." And he'd firmly say, "No. It's Charlie. Of course it's Charlie." Turns out it was Archie. This happened no fewer than 5 times, even involving a discussion of whether a particular book was set in Turkey or Iraq. Hellloooooo?!

So as I was supposed to be discussing this book and its sociopolitical ramifications, I'm instead sitting there in the yenta part of my brain enumerating all the things that make this man completely undateable. And then it also hits me: here I am, my first foray into real humanity in probably two years, out in a blaze of glory and gratitude for my great good fortune at having lived through a stem cell transplant to be here when I know I'd otherwise have been in the ground--and I'm nitpicking some poor shmo's table manners and Q score as it relates to dating.

There were times during the past year when I wasn't feeling well or having a particularly bad day, when I'd tell myself that I'd never be judgmental again, that I'd have a new appreciation for Life's Rich Pageant and all its contestants. That I'd find "meaning" in surviving a transplant. HA HA HA HA!! Apparently what I meant was, "I'll find meaning in doing mental feasibility studies of other people's dating suitability when I should really just be savoring the fact that I'm sitting there at all."

I probably should call my donor and give her a little buyer's remorse, huh?

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Little Bit o' This, A Little Bit o' That

Here's a link to a pretty wide-ranging interview with Obama in the Military Times.

A short quiz, via Newshoggers, that gives you a detailed sense of your place on the Political Compass, rather than just saying "I'm liberal" or "I'm conservative." As the site says, "On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook."
I scored:

Your political compass

Economic Left/Right: -4.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.13

An analysis of your score follows the test. Take it; it's pretty enlightening. I'm just glad I didn't end up in the same ideological neighborhood as Robert Mugabe or Pol Pot. Although I am apparently more left and less authoritarian than my boyfriend Barack Obama. Oh well!

On the subject of graphs and charts, Bambina has been playing with Word Art on her computer, which also includes the ability to create org charts and other representations. Her favorite graph is the Venn Diagram (those three circles that intersect in order to show a commonality between and among them). I just mentioned in passing that the circles were called a Venn Diagram and how they are different from concentric circles, etc etc. Later in the day we were pretending to be mermaids who meet up at a local river. When I asked her what her name was she said, "Venn. Venn Diagram." So I said my name was Concentric. Concentric Circle, but my friends call me Connie.

I love listening to her theories. She insists that she will have 89 children and live in California when she is older and is a doctor-princess-fairy. I remarked that 89 kids was quite a lot, and she said, "We will just have lots of rooms with doors, then." She's also quite sure that she will not marry a boy--because why would anyone do that?

On the topic of the presidential race, she's pretty pissed that the Democratic nominee-apparent has yet to show up and read his "Welcome Barack Obama to Our House!" sign on the lawn. She's so mad she's about ready to vote for Bob Barr. Just kidding! She's totally in the tank for Huckabee...

July 4th was pretty fun. Our afternoon was spent at a city-wide festival that promised rides, games and vendors. It wasn't that great, but Bambina had a great time, scoring the July 4th Fun Trifecta: A ride on a machine operated by a Carnie, a large ice cream-like confection purchased from a caravan with a cash register, and a face painted with an American flag. Good times. The first part of the day we went to a morning "festival" in the town center that turned out to be some footraces for each age group, free balloons from a state representative, and a one mile long line for free ice cream at 10am. We laughed out loud (though probably shouldn't have) when Bambina said, "This is lame!" BBDD said he can't imagine where she has heard someone (cough cough, Mama) say that. Then we went shopping at the mall because Bloomies was having a sale, and we wanted to look for dresses for an upcoming wedding for me. Well, you know how that goes. We ended up looking in the kids department. Bambina is all about creative control these days, so she just started taking dresses off the racks, till she had about 7, and decided it would be fun to try them on. I think this is a variant on her previous need to see every public toilet in whatever building we entered. Now she has to see the fitting rooms of every store. So in we go, where she tried on every dress and settled on a seersucker one as her favorite, because BBDD is going to rock his seersucker suit at said wedding. All well and good (and thank you Gram and Pop for the dress!). But now the pressure is on me from her to wear seersucker too.


I recognize that my child has a need to have her mommy look like her these days. I get it. She really really wants us to dress alike and have our hair the same style and length. I get it that she wants to feel like we are physically similar somehow, and I am sympathetic to the point of seriously considering Lilly Pulitzer dresses as somehow acceptable wardrobe choices. I also know that I would walk on glass while on fire with my internal organs hanging out for my daughter. You know it, I know it and the American people know it. But the question remains: Will I be seen dead in seersucker for my daughter?

We've got two weeks to figure it out, and I'll let you know. But since I'm the shmo you already know I am, don't be surprised to see me post a photo of myself in this:

Yup. I suspect we will be the Chinese-Jewish-WASP? contingent at the wedding, looking a lot like this:

Don't say I didn't warn you. Besides, the BBDD does look lovely in his suit. And, as I said to him, my only rule for him sartorially is that he never, never wears pants in any shade that could be characterized as "watermelon" or "peach", never wears one of those nautical belts worn mostly by people who do not sail, and does not ever commit the cardinal sin (in my mind) of wearing penny loafers with no socks. I saw a guy crossing the street the other day with shorts and penny loafers--no socks. I wanted to yell out that he must have forgotten something at home. Either he forgot his socks, or more appropriately, he forgot not to wear leather shoes with shorts. My Dad always did his "downmarket" version of this by wearing patent leather black shoes with shorts. And I know your dad wore his white ones! So I'm hoping that by laying down the law with the BBDD (who, for the record, is not at all inclined to dress in pastel pants, nautical belts and leather shoes with bare feet), that we can end this terrible cycle of fashion violence perpetrated by the country club set.

And on that ludicrous note, I am off to pick up Bambina at preschool. In my watermelon pants, nautical belt, and sockless golf shoes. ;)

Monday Mashup

Some stuff for you today.

An article in the WSJ about how some of Hillary's "Hillraisers" who are not financially supporting Obama because of his campaign's perceived indifference to the media's sexist treatment of Hillary during the campaign.
Hello? What of the Clinton campaign's indifference to (and often complicity in) pushing smears about Obama? He's not a Muslim "as far as I know"? "Reverend Wright would not have been my pastor"? Gimme a break. This is whinery, pure and simple. From a bunch of ladies who backed a candidate who lost. A candidate in millions of dollars of debt whom Obama is apparently assisting in retiring said debt. This is nonsense. Especially when you consider that 115 of them have now made donations to the McCain campaign. Nice. Back when Obama hired Patti Solis Doyle, some unnamed Clinton supporter called it "the biggest F-You in political history." Really? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that financially supporting a candidate diametrically opposed to everything your supposed political heroine stands for pretty much takes that cake. If I were Hillary Clinton, I'd feel betrayed by these "supporters," many of whom seem to be acting on their own issues rather than Hillary's. (Carly Fiorina, I'm talking to you).

Next up, Jesse Helms. I didn't want to write about him because--for the love of God--who wants to say one word more than necessary about such a man? And I have to kiss my child with this mouth. But I have been stunned by the level of respect accorded this unrepentant racist in the name of conservatism. "But he was a good conservative," he funded this or that important project. Great. Hitler made the trains run on time. The final epitaph to Jesse Helms should be--must be--that he had hate in his heart for other human beings, fellow American citizens. A hate that permeated his every action.
This man whistled Dixie while in an elevator with Carol Mosely Braun, just to be nasty.
He said, "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He'd better have a bodyguard."
He said, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."
And: "I've been portrayed as a caveman by some. That's not true. I'm a conservative progressive, and that means I think all men are equal, be they sl*nts, b**ners or n***ers."
Call me crazy, but there is no policy you can enact, no conservative principles you supposedly uphold that should somehow negate the fact that you hold that type of hate in your heart. Conservatives shouldn't be so proud to call Helms one of their own. And now, let's let him and his hatred die off, never to be spoken of again.

Next, an article over at G-A-Y about how the American Family Association is set to boycott McDonalds because--get this--one of their VP's has agreed to serve on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. How stupid is that boycott?
I might just have to eat there twice a week to counteract these freaks.

Okay. More later.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What A Wild Week

Quite the week we've had. We had our home study visit by the social worker this past week as we update our paperwork for Baby Sister. This of course meant that I spent two days prior acting like a manic scullery maid even though I know that they don't reject you as an adoptive parent for having some crumbs on the floor. I was so crazy I even did every stitch of laundry in the house out of concern for the fact that she might see a full hamper and write, "These people soil their clothing." Stupid is as stupid does. Color me stupid, then. Bambina was of course all very excited to show the nice lady around our house. That is, until the nice lady actually arrived and Bambina refused to even look at her for longer than 3 seconds. As the nice lady and I chatted she said, with great insight, "I can tell in our brief interaction that Bambina is a strong-willed child." I laughed and replied, "Oh, you noticed?" Turns out that she has a daughter born in China who is now a teenager. We were agreeing that the key to parenting a strong-willed child is Picking Your Battles. Which is why Bambina wears whatever the hell she wants to as long as it is age and weather appropriate. Which is why I let her do her own hair no matter how crazy it ends up looking. Which is why I spend stupid extra money on "personal sized" fruit cups, yogurts and other food items. Because if she can't open it herself she doesn't want to eat it. And if there is one thing Bambina can do without consequence it is eat. We just went to her 4 year-old annual check-up where she weighed in at a whopping less-than-30 pounds. I've mentioned my angst about her size in these pages before, being a former fat kid from a proudly zaftig family tradition (ie, too thin = sick; extra 10 pounds = healthy). So, the number on the scale notwithstanding, it's just good to know that she is totally proportionate height/weight-wise, completely healthy, developmentally on target and even ahead...and destined to be about 100 pounds soaking wet fully grown. As my girl JulieG's sister (a doctor) said: "The growth charts aren't the SAT. You don't HAVE to be in the 90th percentile to be okay." The pedi said the same thing: If you're on the chart and growing consistently, you're fine no matter what percentile you're in. That's what a percentile is; if everyone were in the 90th percentile, there'd be no 90th percentile.

The mini-drama at the doctor visit concerned the dreaded 4 year-old vaccinations and blood work--which I had thought were the dreaded 5 year-old vaccinations and blood work. Oops. So poor Bambina (and poor Mama) arrived to learn that there would be some bloodlettin'. Bambina was NOT on board with that at all and made it clear via lung capacity that she was havin' none of it. Two shots and a vial of blood later, Bambina was one lollipop and a promise of some dinner from our favorite local Chinese restaurant (the one with the amazing three-flavored fortune cookies that we have to hide from her until she actually eats the actual food) richer. But she was no happier. I have yet to tell her that she has 2 more shots to get before she's done for this year. Because I'm still immune-suppressed and not entirely vaccinated myself, she can't get her MMR or chicken pox until my doctor and I figure out how we can swing that with both of us in the same house (had I known the shots were imminent I'd have asked before yesterday). I'm waiting to hear back from him on how to proceed. I'm thinking the MMR will probably be fine, but the varicella will be problematic. With that shot, there is a minor chance that the child can get a mild case of chickenpox. And if she does, she'll be shedding the virus before we know she's got it. And that is dangerous with a capital D for me. At the same time, if you've read my irritated posts about moms who choose not to vaccinate, I'm less inclined to have my kid exposed to chickenpox than myself. So I'm hoping we can find a way to get her fully immunized soon--without, of course, putting me in the hospital.

So in addition to the external stuff we were doing this week, we have hit Bambina's Every-Three-Month Serial Drama time. She's just a totally sweet kid; strong-willed definitely. But sweet. And then we have weeks like this where she will throw a tantrum about--I kid you not--the fact that she wants her markers to draw but they are up in her room and Mama go get them for me. My answer: If you want your markers, go get them yourself. Her answer: No! YOU GET THEM!! My answer: Do not speak to Mama in that tone. If you would like your markers, simply walk upstairs, pick up the box, and bring them down. Her answer: NO! YOU GET THEM FOR ME! My answer: We are not discussing this anymore. If you want your markers, you know where they are. Her answer: GGGRRAAAAEEEAEEEAAAAHHHHH! Cue the total freak out, crying, stomping, jumping, tears, red face, yelling. Me looking at her calmly. Her freaking out more. Me asking her if she needs to pull herself together. Do you need a hug to help pull yourself together? Her: NOOOOOOOO!! Stomp! Cry!

Replay that for 35 minutes. THIRTY FIVE MINUTES. Then she burns herself out, walks upstairs and gets her markers. Only now I have to tell her that we no longer have time for drawing because we have to get dressed and leave for our previously-scheduled appointment. More drama as I try to explain that the time we spent stomping around was our drawing time, and now it's getting ready to leave time. Needless to say, it was ugly. But one of my guiding theories of parenting is that of natural consequences. (Except in issues of safety or long-term stuff where the consequences do have to be imposed). You throw a fit for half an hour, you've lost half an hour of fun and now that time is gone. You leave your markers with the covers off and they no longer work, then you are out some markers. You leave your beloved homemade Tom Petty paper doll lying around and it gets ripped, then you need to not leave Tom Petty on the floor next time. I sometimes feel like a really mean Mama, but how else can you teach your kid personal responsibility? Do I wait till she's 10 and has a decade of being picked-up after under her belt to teach her to take care of things she values? To all of a sudden try to convince her that, as special as she is to me, that the world don't run on Bambina Time, nor does it bend to Bambina Whims. It's tough, because at the age of 4, they really do developmentally think the world revolves around them. And while my world certainly does revolve around her in every conceivably relevant way, it also doesn't and can't in all the others.

Happily, as quickly as the storm appeared, Bambina's joie de vivre once again kicked in and we are once again fooling ourselves into thinking that she never throws tantrums. Until maybe September when we have our next quarterly dramatic episode. Until then, we're just doing our thing and enjoying every minute of watching her become the person she is becoming. She's been very interested of late in all of her adoption books. All of the ones that you buy and put on the shelf and maybe read now and again until the child herself decides she actively wants to read it. That time is now, so I'm absolutely seizing the moment. Because, as all the good lit says, even if your child isn't asking you about adoption (or doesn't know what to ask you, in the case of a 4 year old), it doesn't mean she's not thinking about it. And I can tell she's interested based on some of our conversations of late, especially as we excitedly talk about and await the arrival of her cousin:

"Mama? Where do babies come from?"
"Every single person in the world starts out in their mother's tummy. I did, Dada did, and so did you."
"Then what?"
"Well, then some different things might happen. Lots of times the baby stays with the mommy whose tummy she was in, and that lady is her Mama forever. Like Aunt J; her baby is in her tummy and she will be the baby's mommy forever. Other times, the baby is adopted by another lady who becomes her Mama forever. So you grew in your Chinese mother's tummy, and I am your Mama forever."
"How does the baby get into the mother's tummy?"

Oh. Dear. God.

"Good question! How do you mean? Like how does it get in there? Or something else?"
"How does the baby fit in a vagina?" (I feel wobbly...)
"Oh, it grows from a very small cell into a baby while it's in the mommy's tummy; it's not big when it starts." (Am I even answering her question? What the hell am I saying?!)
"Okay. Do you want to play Mancala?!!"

And then we move on. Until the next day when we talk about it again. She loves hearing the story of the day I got The Call about her. I made the mistake of telling her the full truth, and now she LOVES the story in all its inappropriate glory. I share it with you now because I know you will not laugh at me. When I got The Call I was working on a project that had a deadline of tomorrow. I had 4 scheduled conference calls with various major foundation people that could not be rescheduled on penalty of death. Where I was sitting in my office, I knew I had to leave NOW to get to the adoption agency before they closed to see my daughter's photos. They told me I could come tomorrow, but give me a break! Would you delay seeing your kid's face because of traffic?!! NOT. So I told everyone I was leaving (but didn't say why, still feeling a bit superstitious that mentioning it to anyone would invite The Fates to ruin it). So I did my calls while driving to the agency, which was about 50 minutes away. When I got within about a mile, I found a Taco Bell parking lot where I could park, finish my last call, and still get to the agency with an hour to spare. Only, I really had to pee. And I couldn't get off the phone. And I couldn't wait. I was really, really about to wet my business suit. So there, in the (empty, I might add) parking lot of a Taco Bell. I, Mother of the Year, peed into an empty water bottle while simultaneously conducting a Very Important Conference Call and Not Giving A Shit Because I Just Wanted To Go See My Kid. And so, for all the obvious reasons, my child, when she wants to hear her story, wants to hear all about China. She does. But then she really really really just wants to hear how Mama peed in the car because she was so excited.

I obviously need to write a heartwarming book about adoption. With apologies to Jamie Lee Curtis, I'll call it, "Tell Me Again About the Day You Peed In The Car, Mama."

And PS--If you're an adoptive parent looking for a great book, we just got The Three Names of Me. The book description reads: Ada has three names. Wang Bin is what the caregivers called her at her Chinese orphanage. Ada is the name her American parents gave her as the three traveled home. And there is a third name, a name the infant Ada only heard whispered by her Chinese mother. That name, unknown but treasured, is someplace in Ada's heart. I love this book because it makes the Chinese mother real. I love that there is an illustration of Ada as a baby being held by her first mother. So many books about adoption skip over the actual personhood of the birthmother. Not intentionally, I suppose, but the omission is noticeable after reading so many books. So I love--and I can tell Bambina loves--that there is a picture of Ada with her Chinese mother. For a four year-old you definitely will have to edit some of it since it's probably more for a 7 year-old age level. But the gist of the story is wonderful in the way it helps to integrate all the different parts of Ada that make her who she is. She talks about how all the things she can touch about herself are from her Chinese parents: her black hair, her eyes, her hands; and there are things she likes that she wonders if she got from her birthparents too. And then she talks about all the stuff she loves to do with her mom and dad and friends. And how she doesn't like when people stare at her family because they don't look alike, but how she does like soccer and hot dogs, etc. It's a beautifully-written story that, like I said, I have to edit, partly for Bambina's age and partly for my potential for tears when I ponder what her birthmother must have felt. I bet Bambina did have a name given to her by her birth mother. And that name is just as important as any she's been given by anyone else. This book honors that, and in so doing, honors both mothers and their child.