so it has been a thrilling day.
i’m still fighting some upper respiratory thing, finally with some ceftin since it’s the next antibiotic in my rolling list of meds. i’m feeling stellar, and that alone, makes it a great day. then, i knew it was trouble when i heard my cell phone play “darlington county” — that’s my ringtone for our public schools. seems i had to pick the boy up from school because he was whacked in the tooth on the playground by a metal piece of playground equipment that another boy was bouncing on… then, he threw up, so i took him home. after an initial rest period, he seems okay, so i’m just going with the no-concussion track for the day. hope i’m right.
you know, mom, there goes the whole idea of adam and eve.
exactly right, i replied.
9/11. a day that shall also live in infamy.
i’ve written before about what happened in my little world on 9/11. i think it’s safe to say that the day was the most terrifying day of my life, shepherding my then-two-and-a-half-year-old while panic-stricken in the flight path while wondering where on earth my husband, my aunt, my family could be. everyone who was alive and old enough can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that day.
and we have a tree in our yard, one of the 182 planted all around our county, in memory of the pentagon victims. every day, i look at that tree, now tall and very leafy; and when i’m not cursing the fact that it needs a trim because it’s branches have overspread and sometimes whack my car in the driveway, i smile wistfully, thinking about a lady i never had the chance to meet, a lady who was my co-worker and friend’s wife, a lady who was on that plane. a lady whose daughter recently wrote a column that moved me. in that column, the daughter talks about how her mother, a clinical psychologist, would note that the last stage of grief is acceptance and renewal. instead of asking her to basically attend her mother’s funeral every year, she writes, why not instead make it a day to look ahead and to look inside at ways we can understand and behave better toward one another?
i must admit, the media lead-up to 9/11 is overwhelming. someone must be very afraid that americans will forget the day, as if it were some minor blip on the radar; and so we get panelists after panelists discussing foreign policy. we get memorials, we get survivors, we get audio and video from that fateful day. it’s all very compelling, like a car crash; but all these things are seared into the national psyche, and it’s as if we are looking backward and not forward.
perhaps it benefits a generation of kids who were not alive or not at least old enough to know what actually happened; but then i look at my daughter, who was a toddler at the time and know better. unlike me, she has had to practice emergency drills at school for terror attacks. she knows how best to hide in the coat closet and squish down along with her classmates in case a gunman is coming. you steer clear of the classroom door, she tells me, and you stay down. even my son, born after 2001, knows full well that sometimes, you need to practice in case a bad person is in your school. i remember when they had to figure out danger plans at my son’s daycare in case the children were on the playground and an attack took place. all these plans, and it all starts with protecting babies in daycare, children in schools. there’s a whole different culture of awareness now, since 9/11, at least down here in DC and, i suspect, in the NY metropolitan area. and it extends all the way down to our littlest citizens.
friends sometimes ask me whether i wish i could move away from this area. and after 9/11, i desperately wanted to. i live in the flight path of national airport and dulles, and the sound of planes overhead jarred me for months after the event. i would look into the sky and pray that the airplane overhead stayed suspended and continued soundlessly to it’s predetermined destination. i became afraid of planes, too, and flew infrequently. in short, i felt powerless in the face of horror, and i wanted to somehow get out of its way.
but the truth is that horror can be anywhere. and so can beauty be. after living here for over 20 years, i have grown to grudgingly love this area, a place that belongs to the whole nation. it’s a beautiful place, especially during the early spring, when flowers bloom amidst the urban world. every day, i can drive by the capitol, the national mall, abe lincoln and thomas jefferson, and see important visual statements about our nation and it’s values. it’s far from nirvana, of course, but it’s really a beautiful, important place.
i want to protect this beauty.
i want to be a part of the citizenry that says no to terror; i want to be a part of the group that lets terrorists know that while they do harm us in serious, painful ways, that we respond. and yes, we respond in grief at first — but we eventually get past that crushing weight and move into acceptance and renewal. my city’s not of ruins; it’s of people who fight terrorism simply by being here and living their lives. i have accepted that i am here, and i have accepted that, while painful and frightening as it can be to live here, i am going to live here as long as i can stand it. i am going to live here as long as i can love it.
and i intend to love it as long as i can.
i learned the truth at 10, thanks to this song.
an indictment of the world of high school that could be considered the great grandma of mean girls, janis ian’s at seventeen must have hit a chord with a lot of others as well, as it was a huge hit that year. it’s a commentary on the importance of popularity, cliques, and being judged on your appearance: your clothes, your face, basically everything about “ugly duckling girls.” at 10, i knew i’d never be a cheerleader, a beauty queen, or one of those girls who seemed to walk out of a shampoo commercial. for starters, my hair was brown (and we all knew back then that blondes had more fun.) all the girls in my class were thin as sticks; i somehow was curvy, which wasn’t too cool when you’re in 5th grade. (and that continued on into high school, when finally most of the girls caught up.) and worst of all, i was a smart girl.
i knew it would be a long time, if ever, that anyone would want to date a smart girl like me. at 10, i was reading mother jones and newsweek and all sorts of classic books; i adored joining my folks as they watched PBS shows on history and politics. most of my peers at the time were not there; many still aren’t. and yet, i also loved it when my friend jeanne and i would borrow her older sister’s seventeen magazine. somehow, my entire existence was supposed to be centered on finding the right lip gloss and taking quizzes that would surely determine the path of my life going forward. it was all so confusing to me; it was like i was supposed to be several different people, all without actually turning into sybil.
and then janis ian cleared it all up for me. don’t worry kid, she seemed to be saying. the really pretty and popular ones were going to lead boring, traditional lives. but you, my friend, are an ugly ducking girl like me.
and what i took from that? well, you know what eventually happened to the ugly duckling, right?
or, in truth, rediscovering it.
years ago when i was working for the world’s then-largest online service, i had the privilege of working in the international division. our company had joint ventures in several nations (and launched still others while i was on staff.) i had been restructured from my other position in the company, and i was exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to continue contributing toward the company in this young division. somewhere along the line, i believe i was told that my job was essentially paid for by our joint venture with japan, which of course made me especially grateful and sensitive to those folks out in a wildly-different time zone.
and it really wasn’t easy working as a product manager in this realm, to be sure. our US counterparts regularly ignored our requests for products and actually belittled us to our faces. they were the 1000-pound gorilla to our small but feisty group. to fight the gorilla, we often had to resort to guerilla product marketing/management tactics in order to serve our clients. hell, my then-boss (and beloved BFF) and i did not have a computer on which to load the japanese software — you needed to have a japanese operating system in order to use the japanese software. so we did what any two enterprising girls would do — we somehow located a forgotten computer through our snooping, er, research methods, liberated it stealthily, and brought it into my office, where we loaded the software. it seems silly now — we needed that machine in order to test our products and see how things worked. but as the rodney dangerfields of the company, we just didn’t get any respect.
(no respect, i should add, save for one US product manager, who to this day is my friend and who actually worked to help us, probably to his occupational detriment. imagine that — we all worked for the same company, and he took it to heart to mean that we should work together. what a revolutionary idea!)
i ascertained so many nuanced things from my interactions with my japanese counterparts. it wasn’t always easy being on conference calls either very early in the morning or late at night; (i’m sure it wasn’t easy for them, either!) i learned, for example, that just because someone there says yes to you does not necessarily mean that he or she is agreeing with you; rather, it just means that you’ve been heard. i’ve since learned to truly pay attention to people when i’m interacting with them; there’s more going on there than one might expect.
anyway, i loved working with all the folks overseas; i hope they realize that we really tried our very best for them against some absurd conditions. i continue to be pals with some of my UK, canadian, and japanese counterparts. and i’m worry about my friends in japan. sure, they’re mostly in tokyo — but the tales of the city closed up, with no food on the shelves and aftershocks and radiation makes me want to go and airlift everyone out of all of the affected areas. we’ve already given money, but the helplessness i feel all of the way around the world makes me cry daily. i want to do more. i want to help more. i want to somehow make the world safer for them and for everyone.
and i want them to know how amazed i am by what i see, how astounded all of us in america are. i see a nation of very courageous people who are just doing the best they can under horrific circumstances. there are super-heroics going on at the nuclear plants, where people are risking their very lives in order to save their countrymen and the world. i am awe-struck. would people be like that here under such conditions? i don’t know, but i hope so.
but i hope people in japan know that people in america are with them. for the people of japan are surely in our hearts.
since 1920, sistahs unite! vote on!
is it just me, or does it seem like america has become even more openly hostile to women these days? between all the anti-choice legislative nightmares brewing and even oddly-misogynistic attitudes in journalistic pieces, it’s apparently becoming more acceptable to knock down women. (and gays. and jews. and minorities. and basically anyone out there who isn’t one of the wildly-oppressed, white male species. oh, boo effing hoo, boys. ) methinks for that years, people were shamed into trying to be less racist, and unfortunately, shaming doesn’t work. (of course, with some of these folks, i wonder whether education will work, either.)
so it is with some trepidation that i ponder our current state of affairs. i fear that neither diversity of population or of thought is appreciated in the policy circles of the current powers that be. the damage that may occur in our society as a result is stunning. for somehow, it is becoming more acceptable to force a woman to complete an unplanned pregnancy. and when that baby is born, will these same people be there to raise it, shelter it, pay for it? of course not. somehow, pregnancy has become a punishment of sorts — and it doesn’t matter whether the woman became pregnant simply because she was sexually active or because she was raped. her life is worth less than the burgeoning life inside of her. the policy decisions surrounding abortion rights are being made by people who not only do not care about the rights of women, but who feel that society must use certain tools to punish them, even in cases when the pregnancy is not the woman’s fault.
and where the hell are the men in these situations? women do not conceive immaculately.
roe versus wade is the law. and now that plenty of states, including my own, are making it absurdly difficult to provide safe, legal abortions to those who choose to have them, i fear for a lot of female citizens, women who may die because of someone else’s misogynistic belief system. hey — don’t want an abortion? don’t have one!
so i’m hoping a lot of people out there — men and women alike — see the writing on the wall… i’m hoping they get involved in policy discussions. i’m hoping they get active in the issues.
and i’m really hoping that they vote.
…and don’t be a bully.
a few weeks ago, i crushed on the housemartins. this week, i am crushing on a former member of that band, norman cook, aka fatboy slim. while an old friend of housemartins’ leader paul heaton, cook eventually left to go do the type of music he truly loved — a mish-mosh of danceable sampling. i was never a huge fan of sampling — i always thought it was the lazy person’s way to music. but then, when i heard what fatboy slim did, i was hooked. (in fact, one of my fondest memories is of my then-two-year-old daughter dancing around the family room to praise you.)
in don’t let the man get you down, cook samples an old hippie anthem, signs by the five man electrical band.
anyone a little older than i am (or my age with older siblings) can remember that song and how it talks of society’s push to make us all conform. just that first line in don’t let the man get you down is enough to make a person feel a little hippy-righteous. and now, it’s danceable. what could be better? sure, the video is a bit creepy; but it could have been creepier… it could have featured christopher walken.
oh wait — he did that a different time, didn’t he…
anyway, at this juncture, the man is getting me down. the house just passed a bill that is so riddled with insanity, i just don’t know what to think. instead of tackling the real 800 pound gorillas of defense or entitlement programs, the cowardly republicans picked on basically everything and everyone else. one congressman was unhappy that planned parenthood provides abortions as part of their services (not with federal funds, mind you — they do all sorts of counseling and other stuff with federal funds, but they are not allowed by law to provide abortions using federal money), so he put in a provision to eliminate ALL federal funding from that specific organization, legislating his own personal vendetta. (and for you folks out there who think that funds can end up providing abortions anyway, they don’t. they can’t. and established and above-the-board organizations like PP know better than to even try something like that for fear of losing their needed funding.)
oh, and instead of discussing and debating the clean air act, the republicans have taken passive-aggressive behavior to new levels, slashing the EPA and it’s ability to regulate dangerous air pollution in this same legislation. no, it’s too difficult to talk about clean air — which by the way has provided a great return on investment — $4 to $8 in economic benefits for every $1 spent on compliance, according to the non-partisan U.S. Office of Management and Budget. not sure what these folks have against clean air, but this is not the legislative vehicle from which to essentially create such a huge policy decision without any conversation.
let’s see… defunding PBS? WTF did Big Bird ever do to you, GOP folks? do you have any idea how valuable a resource PBS is and has been to our nation? one of the rare safe places for my kids to watch TV without getting bombarded by half-hour-long cartoons which serve only as infomercials for some toy. i adore american masters, i adore american experience, i adore my eastenders, i adore so very much about my local PBS station! nature, science, news, art, history — it’s all here at PBS. i cannot begin to tell you how much i have learned all my life thanks to PBS. and you’re taking this away?
other highlights, according to the washington post:
If enacted as is, the GOP plan would eliminate numerous programs, including the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs the AmeriCorps program, and it would terminate federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It would cut $600 million from border security and immigration programs. It would eliminate nearly $80 million for the District and slash funding for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.
so let me get this straight: we’re against fostering community service. we’re against border security and immigration programs that work with the people who are trying to get in here legally. oh, we know you hate the District and its denizens (oh, and btw: fuck you back for doing this when we truly have taxation without representation.) and what do you have against the crabs you love to eat from the chesapeake? i’m so very, very confused about the messages you people are sending.
but you’re terrified of the giant and true drivers of the federal deficit — medicaid, medicare, defense, social security. oh, and why would that be? oh, well, those are thornier problems that require actual intellect and serious thought, something you apparently are incapable of accomplishing. and something which can’t easily be explained to your constituency in a solid, 30-second sound bite. so instead, you pick on all these other items, showing your constituents that you have the courage of your convictions and the balls to carry it out. only what you’re doing sounds to me a lot like what we moms call bullying. you’re feeling afraid of something or someone bigger than you, so instead, you’re taking it out on weaker things. someone ought to give you people a time-out.
what you’re doing isn’t going to mean diddly-squat in the big budgetary picture, but it sure is going to screw your constituents down the road. (look up pyrrhic victory.) and you will eventually get that long-deserved time-out.
so yes, the man has gotten me down a bit this past week. but i’ll be damned if i stay down.
no, not that john edwards.
back in 1971, things were looking grim on the american homefront. the vietnam war was still raging; citizens, particularly the young, were feeling restless and anxious about a world in which they believed was dangerous and in which they were essentially voiceless. remember, back then, you couldn’t vote until you were 21; and yet lots of 18 year olds were being shipped off to fight a war they thought was pointless. jonathan edwards added his thoughts to the landscape via this wonderful protest song, sunshine.
recent events in egypt have made me think about this song anew. the people are speaking out against a government which they believe is not democratic. i believe that people have the right to determine their own government; i always thought that was what we were taught in school. you know, the whole american revolution thing, right? dropping tea into the harbor? making our own rules? i mean, as the scholar jeff spicoli once explained:
and yet some on the right — those who champion folks like the modern-day tea party and who claim to love america more than you and i do — are demonizing the protesters.
beck seems to believe that the entire middle east is going to blow. his inflammatory talk doesn’t give us any ideas as to how to make things better. and frankly, i think he’s played fast and loose with a lot of his so-called data. i find it confusing as well that he seems to not support people forming their own governments. are we happy when religious zealots form a government and rule a nation? no, we are not. but who are we, as america, to tell another nation who should run it and how it should be run? boy, we were so successful putting people into power (iran and egypt, i’m looking at you, among others too numerous to count) that i think we ought to rethink our strategy a bit here.
do i have the answers? of course not. i wish for peace every day; and i wish for people to be free the world over. and i will continue to monitor the events as they unfold.
but i can’t help but hear edwards refrain as i watch the news.
How much does it cost, I’ll buy it
The time is all we’ve lost, I’ll try it
But he can’t even run his own life
I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine, Sunshine
sometimes, we all need to be mellow (and respect the stuff that’s yellow.)
the story goes that here, in the people’s republic of arlington, one of the full-day public elementary preschool programs has booted a three year old girl for having more than eight accidents in a month. i am actually quite familiar with this sort of situation; jools was three when he started at claremont’s sister school’s montessori program. and while he was potty trained by that point, something about the program discombobulated him. they didn’t nap. they were very structured. and, in short, he had accidents. the teacher and the teacher’s aide were not happy about the situation, and neither were we. ultimately, we pulled him out of that program into a more day care-like situation, where he proceeded to have many dry days and never looked back.
while i feel badly for the little girl and her mom, i think a lot of their anger is rather misplaced. here in arlington, elementary school-sponsored preschool is not universal. you get in via lottery (or sometimes via an older sibling preference) unless you are entering one of the income-based programs. these programs are not daycare programs — these are classroom-based programs where the children essentially have a similar experience to their older compatriots. this is far more structured than what you might get at some fluffy preschool program. it’s a bargain, financially- speaking, if you can get in. and for some kids, it’s a great fit. they are both intellectually and physically ready for the experience.
for other kids, it’s a nightmare. their little bodies aren’t ready for the full-time pressure of monitoring when they have to go. sometimes, they get so engaged in an activity that it’s too late before they realize they needed a pit stop. there’s nothing wrong with that, of course — it’s developmentally quite appropriate for a lot of kids.
but one thing i have learned in my short but eventful career as a parent — sometimes, a class or a program may be fabulous, but it’s not a fabulous fit for MY child. for whatever reason, there have been situations which just didn’t work out for my kids. so BS and i dropped back, figured out plan B (or sometimes C), and punted. it wasn’t easy — sometimes, it caused challenges that upset our daily lives at work and at home. but we did what we had to do and we moved on.
arlington county public schools is pretty specific and up front about what they expect of children in the program: children must be potty trained. this is not daycare, people. this is a public school. they tell you up front that they won’t be changing nappies, and they mean it. and while even older children occasionally have an oops! moment, these occurrences are not and should not be something that disrupts class with frequency or else it isn’t fair to the other kids who are completely ready for the experience. no child should be shamed about his ability to control his body. but no child should be forced into a position where she’s facing embarrassment on a daily basis. if this sort of thing happens frequently, as a parent i would recognize that something is not right for my kid. and, recognizing that the school is not going to bend a whole lot on this matter, i would have moved my kid. period.
but blaming the school is not fair. i think in our society, we always look to point the finger at anyone but ourselves. i would think it would be more useful to instead focus energies on finding a place that works best for the child and which welcomes her — all of her.
no, really. thank you.
sure, i picked the leitmotif of pet peeves this month. but that doesn’t conceal the fact that i am very, very grateful for a lot of things. i could list them for days and years. i’ll just list a few off the top of my pointed head.
1) thank you, BC: for being an awesome daughter who somehow gets me in a way that no one else does. you forgive me when i probably deserve a tween shriek thrown at me. you are one of the two greatest gifts i have ever been given, and i never forget that.
2) thank you, jools: for being an incredible son who picks and chooses the strangest moments to change from a delightful little boy into a wizened old man and provide me with a perspective that i sorely need to hear and grasp. you are one of the two greatest gifts i have ever been given, and i don’t ever forget that.
3) thank you, BS: my eternal partner in crime, the statler to my waldorf. you put up with me no matter what. you like me in spite of me being me. you make me laugh. you are always my personal bulldog. and you’ve got the most beautiful eyes i have ever seen. i am so lucky that mark wintle dumped a beer on you and therefore brought you into my life for keeps.
4) thank you mom and dad and aunt barbara: you have always been in my corner, and you have taught me the power of unconditional love. i’ll never be able to tell you fully how much you mean to me, but somehow you always know what i mean when words fail me.
5) thank you to my brothers, who never treated me like a girl but who always treated me as someone who needed to learn to be as tough as nails. i learned so much from both of you; and while i know i continue to get on your nerves in a huge way, i do it because i love you. (you’re welcome.)
6) thanks to my mother-in-law, my dearly-missed father-in-law, and all my husband’s family for treating me like one of your own. i know i’m a little bit odd in comparison to you all, but you’ve always welcomed me with open arms from the word go.
7) thank you to my friends, who seem to like me still. i treasure you.
8 ) thank you to america for taking my great grandparents in. my family has always been fiercely proud of our nation.
9) thank you to the Beatles for making the best music ever.
and last for today, but not least:
10) thank you, gutenberg, for inventing the printing press. for i do so love to read.
happy thanksgiving, everyone!
somebody’s got to pay for all of this.
let me preface this by saying that this is not a debate as to whether or not you feel your taxes are too high. i, for one, have a few ideas as to how we could cut government spending, but that is another thread for another day.
this is, in fact, about those ignorant morons who try to completely get out of paying any federal taxes, whether G-d told them not to, whether they feel it’s unconstitutional (which says to me that they haven’t read the 16th amendment lately), or whether they’re just too fucking selfish to pay. i’m sorry, but if you live here, you have to do what the rest of us do. (well, most of us. big corporations manage to weasel out of paying taxes in myriad ways, which makes me also insane. but you, john q. public, don’t have an army of litigators at the ready to protect your supposed right to hide any earnings you’ve made.)
i know people think they have the right to not pay taxes, but i respectfully disagree. you like roads? you like clean water? you like junior getting an education? you like granny getting her social security check? you need to pony up, sir. otherwise, you can move. you can move to the UAE, but you might have to give up some of those rights you’ve learned to love.
in the meantime, i leave you with some creative ways of alleviating your tax burden.
1) don’t smoke cigarettes.
2) don’t drink alcohol (or conversely, start up a new hobby: home brew.)
3) don’t drive your car. bike, walk, or take public transport.
if i think up more, i’ll let you know. i’m open to your ideas, of course.
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