Category: political animal

immigrant song

immigrant song

scared little faces peering out from buses at hostile, snarling grownups. what must they be thinking?

loads of children are making a perilous journey, sans parents, to the united states. most are coming from honduras, guatemala, el salvador, and mexico. we can talk all day long, i’m sure, about our immigration policy and how problematic it remains — while we don’t all agree on what should be done, we all, with the possible exception of the US Congress, realize that something must be done to improve the situation. and until they figure things out, we as a nation continue to show our both best and our worst side to the world. i admit i was intrigued by a thread i had read about what sort of parents let their children travel alone to a foreign nation. who in their right mind would put young children in the care of people they don’t even know and hope that they make it to their destination in one piece.

i know exactly the sort: my great-grandparents.

my great-grandfather aron katz was born in 1879 and married rose kogan between 1899-1901 in odessa, russia. aron was a tailor and they were not well-to-do. to put it mildly, things in russia were not great for anyone at that time but particularly not for jews, who were routinely persecuted and often killed. he, rose, and the two youngest children — sam and my grandmother belle — emigrated to the united states in march of 1913. oddly enough, they did not come through ellis island as most did. at the time, a lot of people in the US were pretty hostile to all those jews coming in. instead, my great-grandparents were caught up in the galveston movement, which essentially lasted from 1907-1914 and was an effort to disperse the jewish immigrant population throughout the united states by bringing them in through the port of galveston, texas.

on the manifest of the SS cassel, the ship they came to the United States on in march of 1913, their destination is listed as kansas city, missouri.  now i have no knowledge of whether they ever made it to kansas city; however, we know that by november 1913, they were living on the lower east side of new york. when i was in college, i completed an oral history of my grandmother’s life — and i still remember her telling me that her father was a tailor — and oy! could you imagine a jewish tailor in galveston, tx? she told me that they somehow made their way up the mississippi and then eastward where their relatives lived on the lower east side of manhattan. but we know that they had made their way because in november 1913, they had an important delivery to receive.

because they were not wealthy, my great-grandparents could only afford the fare for their two youngest children. their two oldest stayed behind with relatives until they were able to raise the fare for them to come over. in november 1913, those two children came to america on the ship grosser kurfurst. my great-aunt lillian (or liebe) was 11 years old, and her brother max (or mordechai) was 10. imagine being a child and taking a journey to a place you had never been? according to my cousin ilene (lily’s daughter), her mother had recounted how terrifying and awful the trip had been.  her mother was especially frightened by all the drunken sailors on board. i can only wonder what she dealt with as the elder child in charge — and only at age 11. somehow, though, after a long time fending for themselves on board, lily and max made it to new york, where they were reunited with the rest of their family.

so what kind of parents would put their children in harm’s way? what kind of parent would take young kids and have them fend for themselves among unscrupulous adults who might take terrible advantage of them — or worse? i can imagine exactly the kind of parents — very desperate ones. my great-grandparents lived in a place where they faced peril regularly.  they knew they had to get somewhere safe for their family’s sake. i can only imagine how it killed them a little bit to leave two of their kids behind. they crossed their fingers that the children would be cared for and, once the money was raised, they would send for them, too. i wish i had had a chance to talk to my great-aunt about her trip. knowing that jews were not exactly welcomed when they arrived, i’m sure their initial experience in america was probably not too pleasant; but i can figure that anything had to have been better than a pogrom so they were going to make it work here no matter what.

thinking about this experience sheds light on what mothers and fathers in dangerous places such as honduras must be thinking. they scrape every little bit of money they have and borrow what they don’t and send their children to a place where they hope their children can somehow be protected from their current daily misery. the situation has to be pretty bad for a parent to send her child off with strangers in the hope that somewhere else is better than the child’s current environment.

so whatever you might think about immigration policy, think twice before you impugn the fitness of parents of these children because they send their kids off to america. faced with the same choices, we all might do the same thing. instead, while the immigration situation gets sorted, why not treat the children as you would hope strangers would treat yours?

in the end, human nature is human nature, whether you’re in central america, russia, the united states, or anywhere else parents and children exist.

hateful songs: “g-d bless the usa” (lee greenwood)

hateful songs: “g-d bless the usa” (lee greenwood)

oh, the wackadoodles are going to find me now.

happy july 4th! i love july 4th. it is truly the most american of holidays, as we gather to celebrate our independence. yes, we replace our phillies flag with old glory; and i put on red, white, and blue clothing, which i fortunately have. sometimes, i even get the kids in some patriotic clothing. i love the fireworks and the parades and the people joining together for one brief second as one people. i would even bake one of those yummy-looking strawberry-blueberry cake thingies, though i know jools hates fruit and won’t go near one.

so i’ll just enjoy it for the moment here.


okay. about this lee greenwood song. now, i know a lot of people love it and feel their hearts all warmed by it. and that’s great; and it’s a free country and all that. this is not about you. this is about me.

and i loathe this song.

in fact, there are very few songs that physically make me cringe. this is one of them.

(so is this.)

i’ve tried to think about what it is about the song that i dislike so much. yes, it’s sappy — but so are other songs i actually find charming.

it’s not necessarily that g-d is in the title. i mean, i love to stand up and sing g-d bless america. (admittedly, i often break out in the version i learned as a child, g-d bless my underwear. but still.)

part of what bothers me is how it was written. greenwood has said in interviews that he and his producer sort of calculated the city shout-outs:

I’m from California, and I don’t know anybody from Virginia or New York, so when I wrote it – and my producer and I had talked about it – [we] talked about the four cities I wanted to mention, the four corners of the United States. It could have been Seattle or Miami but we chose New York and L.A., and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy – Motown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.

first of all: economically part of the basis of our economy? what the WHAT? and so, let’s pander to the (at-the-time) money-making locations in the USA. you’ll get more radio airplay in those markets, which can only boost sales. now, certainly, lots of songs name-check places, but i don’t think they often do it in order to target the economic centers of the country. that’s just weird and disingenuous to me.

so there’s this calculated cheesefest that strikes at your heart.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

son, have you heard of the patriot act?

generally, the people i have met who are into this song often (not always, but often) are the sorts who are all about freedoms. their freedoms. everyone else’s? they can go to hell.  maybe their ancestors had the good luck to come to this country at a time when people melted in. mine weren’t so welcome (hence why my grandmother’s family came in through galveston, texas, even though their entire family was in tenements in NYC. there were too many jews, you see, immigrating (nevermind we were escaping being used as kindling in pogroms in russia poland), so there was an effort to bring immigrant jews in via alternate US ports. we were persona non grata, you know. still the age of no jews, no dogs signs.

now, of course, substitute mexicans for jews.

so yeah. maybe you are here for a generation or two. (or ten.) does that make you more american than people who are striving to be american? i know we can’t support the world; we can barely support ourselves. but the attitude i hear from so many people borders more on the bigoted and less on the factual. (which, i would add, a lot of people don’t truly get. here are some recent ones, for those who want to get info.) policy must be based on facts and not on your scapegoat-oriented ideas.

that would be unamerican.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA

i think i’ve got it. there’s an implication that criticism of the US = you don’t love this land. criticism of the US = you don’t appreciate your freedoms. in fact, those of us who criticize this nation love it just as much as those of you who jingoistically knee-jerk into america is perfect mode.  i’m quite sure, in fact, that there will be readers of this who will call me everything from communist (nope, sorry, not one) to a nation hater (nothing could be further from the truth.) in fact, they will also curse me as… wait for it… a liberal. like that would be a bad thing to be. (it’s not. neither is being conservative. it’s just different points of view.) but this song codifies the polarization of our nation in a few stanzas, a polarization which has led to legislative standstills and all sorts of negativity in the political arena, more than any i, a student of the political process, have witnessed in most of my life. to me, this song is rather insulting.

for if you don’t love g-d bless the usa, then surely it follows that you don’t love the usa, either.

in my view, there are many other, better patriotic songs for this day. i encourage you to seek them out. some are rah-rah-usa works. some are critical. but all encapsulate a vision of this nation as a place that welcomes and celebrates all of its citizens.

some of my humble suggestions from wreke’s jukebox:

this land is your land (woody guthrie)

millworker (james taylor)

american tune (paul simon)

4th of july, asbury park (bruce springsteen) (note: had to put that in for my BS and for one of my beloved SILs)

the house i live in (what is america to me) (frank sinatra)

the house i live in (what is america to me) (patti labelle. i love this song, and while i love the chairman of the board’s version, ms. labelle knocks it out of the park.)

america the beautiful (ray charles)

goodnight, saigon (billy joel)

the stars and stripes forever (john phillip sousa, played by the awesome us marine band)

the star spangled banner (f.s. key, performed by whitney houston)



you are welcome to take issue with my selections in the comments. (some people are still taking issue with what i wrote over 5 years ago about the song wildfire… on my old blog. and wow, who knew those fans would be so nasty!) also, if you have nominees for songs you loathe (and which i’ve not written about already), feel free to share.

i take requests.


i want it now

i want it now

(there’s no way on Dog’s green earth i would link to frank zappa’s song on this topic. just so you know…)

can six life-impaired, personality-stunted millenial women from my tribe grow the fuck up and get lives? yes, this is but one of the questions i ponder now that bravo tv, home of such important television productions as the real housewives of new jersey and don’t be tardy, unleashed a new show onto the world: princesses: long island.  they were four men, living all together. yet they were all alone. whoops. wrong show.  it’s what i call car crash tv — so awful, yet i cannot look away from these six glamazons, all vying to be the poster child for a long-standing stereotype of jewish women:  the jewish american princess, or JAP for short.

so may i present to you exhibit a: the ladies, in their late 20s/early 30s — each one more frightening than the next. there’s amanda, who met her smarmy, stalker-like beau jeff on the LIRR. she lives with her divorced cougar mom who seems a little too eager to insert herself inappropriately into amanda’s existence.  there’s ashlee (and i always have trouble with women whose names end up cutie-pie-spelled, like what a double e does here), a very spoiled young lady whose middle name i’m betting is veruca salt, who clearly has daddy issues, and who probably will never be able to function in a life by herself.  (in a rental beach house in the hamptons, ashlee calls her mom, freaked out because she has issues sleeping on sheets other people have slept on. oh. and she has a small stain on her sheet in her bed. can her mom help her via phone?) casey is as close to normal as you get on this show, though she is still crushed over being betrayed by erica (you’ll hear about her in a sec) back in high school. there’s chanel, named for the bag in which she was conceived who may end up banished from her home shtetl, anatevka, as her younger sister is engaged and she herself has no visible prospects for love. erica, who trumpets the fact that she was apparently the biggest slut on long island of her day. her day, unfortunately, has come and gone, and she finds herself surrounded by women whose boyfriends she has stolen in earlier times. (uh oh.) last but not least, there is joey, who lives in the poor area (according to a screeching ashlee who braces for a carjacking while driving through joey’s ‘hood) and, while she lives at home, is attempting something entrepreneurial but who is shaping up to be a little two-faced conniver. (mark my words.)

all of these women still live at home. most of these women do nothing every day except shop (with mommy and daddy’s money), tan, get mani/pedis, drink, and meddle in each other’s affairs. they are waiting for their rich guy to take them away from all this… and then give it right back to them, preferably at an even higher $$ level. this is the prequel franchise, if you will, for the real housewives. they all make marjorie morningstar look like a bra-burning radical. there’s something very sad about women who, in 2013, expect men to take over their care and feeding. there’s something also very disturbing about how entitled these women are: as if somehow, they are deserving of this material wealth; it is their birthright, though they had no part in creating it — and some man needs to come along and pick up the tab from mommy and daddy.

to be sure, it is a bit unsettling watching a show that is perpetuating a stereotype, especially one i know my jewish girlfriends and i have worked very hard to kick to the proverbial curb. i still remember when a friend of mine nicknamed my cousin and i the JAP cousins (when nothing could be further from the truth for either one of us.) clearly, no intelligent person who watches bravo reality TV thinks that this is real life, right? it’s escapist bullshit spun into expensively bleached and teased gold. but because it is called princesses, it brings to mind the concept of jewish princesses; and for those idiots of the world who take this as literal truth in tv, this becomes their absurd perception of the reality of all jewish women.

now, i would be lying if i said i never encountered these sorts before. when i was going into ninth grade, my mom and her friend worked one summer as teachers/counselors at a tony summer camp in upstate new york. this camp was the domain of jewish kids from long island. her friend’s son and i went to camp that summer in exchange for their labors.

it seemed like a good idea at the time.

i wrote about that experience awhile back. in short, though, it was a disaster. i didn’t get on well with the JAPpy girls in the bunkhouse, as i had more on my mind than just polishing my nails. i spent my time with the counselors after hours, as they liked me and loathed the other campers. and admittedly, i carried that bad taste and stereotype around in my head for a long, long time.

fortunately, time has shown me a lot of long island jewish chicks who don’t fit into that mold — and plenty of other women, not necessarily from long island and not necessarily jewish — who do. i wish some of those amazing long island jewish women could get more airplay for the feats they’ve accomplished, as some of them are just stunning. but i guess that doesn’t make for great reality tv. only stereotypes make for great reality tv, apparently, as stereotypes provide a mental shorthand for the mentally weak.

so, for those who require such categorization (and with sincerest apologies to the seven dwarves), we’re stuck with the six dipshits: dumpy, dopey, stunted, old maideleh, slutty and the kvetch. but the twist?

they’re not looking for prince charming. these girls are all looking for doc.


like a prayer

like a prayer

the prayer may take you there, but you don’t need to drag anyone else into it.

this morning, i was reading the tragic story of a young man, a quarterback with incredible athletic ability, somehow getting lost and perishing in the woods.  i should know better than to look at the comments after any story in a national publication, but i went there.

it started off with a woman offering prayers.

Dear Lord, take him into your kingdom, for all are weak and weary, and stumble and fall and fail..Have mercy Lord.

of course, some took offense over her line about people being weak and weary and stumbling and falling. considering the man may have had some emotional issues, this could have been taken in a number of different ways. at first people took offense to her prayer. they found it insensitive to the man and the family and noted it.

enter the religious folks. one wrote:

Great. A Christian makes a thoughtful and prayerful comment about a very tragic situation and all the atheist assholes come out of the woodwork. Go back in your wormholes.

so accept her thoughtful christian prayer, you heathen assholes. (not a very christian sentiment, i would add.)

backup comes. one person finally clarifies it all for the world (and i would add: sic):

YOU people must don’t go to church to understand her prayer…she meant NO harm by it!! People read your bible and go to church and maybe you WILL understand her prayer…geez!

so see? her prayer should be accepted and appreciated. and everyone else, you clearly need to go to church. fin.

like i said earlier, i don’t usually look at comment sections of national publications. usually, they are permeated with trolls and other bizarro people who often, though not always, hide behind anonymity to spew some really awful stuff, stuff they might never (although never say never with people, i suppose) say to a person’s face if they encountered them in real life. but i did, and it got me thinking.

it’s wonderful to offer support to people, particularly the bereaved.  the world surely needs love today. but isn’t it selfish if you are offering support that screams your faith? your faith may be a great comfort to you, but it may mean nothing to the person to whom you’re offering it. for example, i cannot tell you how many times people have invoked jesus’ name when they’ve sought to provide sympathy to me during my life. i smile and say thank you because i was raised to be a nice jewish girl; but honestly, invoking jesus’ name means literally nothing to me. well, nothing other than you are pressing your religion on me, possibly at a time when i really, really would prefer non-sectarian kindness. i don’t think all christians in particular get this concept. we realize that when you tell us you are praying for us that this is a comfort to you, as you are doing something which you’ve taught is something that should of course be a comfort to everyone. but for those of us non-christians — and especially for those of us who are atheists — telling us you are praying for us is kind of a subtle burden, a tacit moment of you pushing your faith on us. i do not doubt for one nanosecond that this is done unconsciously and with great love and caring; but if you ever stopped for a second and put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you might rethink it.

why not instead go for the human touch? why not extend condolences? why not say lovely things about the lost loved one? you might wish the bereaved the strength to get through such a tough time. there are a lot of things you can say to a person that are kind and loving and which convey your deep sympathies without getting all religious on him. instead of telling me you’re praying for me, why not instead say i’m in your thoughts? it works.


now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t pray for someone if that’s what your religion teaches you to do. but you shouldn’t foist that on someone else who doesn’t share your beliefs. pray all you want — pray for the bereaved, pray for the lost love one — just do it for yourself, quietly, respectfully.

when my beloved father in law passed away a few years ago, i was so deeply sad for my husband, for my kids, for my mother in law and for the rest of the family. (i was also deeply sad, period. my father in law was a wonderful man.) as my father in law was catholic, he was buried in accordance with his faith. i would never have dreamed of pushing my religious beliefs on anyone in my husband’s family, then or on any other day. i walked up to his casket and let my heart speak. i remember thinking positive thoughts to send him on his way. and then, i remember, quietly, in my internal dialogue, telling him i hoped he would understand that i was going to quietly do what i was taught to do in this situation. i hoped, if nothing else, that he was looking down from heaven, and getting a giggle over his strange but ever-loyal jewish daughter in law.

and in my head, i quietly said mourner’s kaddish.

i would never want to burden any of the living with my religious beliefs (though i eventually told my husband, who i think smiled at the weirdness of the act), especially at a time like that. but i hoped that as he started his journey, my father in law would understand.

my sweet lord

my sweet lord

i heard george harrison in the car today and i had an epiphany. go figure.

tragedy has struck again in boston. strangely, there were people attending the marathon who had experienced a recent tragedy in newtown, connecticut. tragedy strikes at an alarming rate these days; i’m not entirely certain whether there are more tragedies actually occurring or whether the 24-hour news cycle is just better at bringing them into our lives, up close and personal.

and while some may become impervious over time to nonstop horror, i fear i may never achieve that. it tears me up inside thinking that there are people so disturbed in the world who would take others’ lives, who might even take their own lives, maybe for a cause — or maybe for madness alone. services to help the disaffected, the mentally ill, are not easily obtained. the weapons to create mass destruction are readily available.  it was patriot’s day in massachusetts, the boston marathon, and even tax day in america. was some sick individual or group trying to make a statement? time will tell, and while we armchair crime scene specialists ponder the few shreds of clues we have, we can’t jump to conclusions.  we must wait for the professionals to do their important work.

so back to george harrison. at times like these, when i know i can’t jump to conclusions, i want to know how to find peace somehow in all of this. i struggle to make some sense out of the senseless. and this, of course, brings me to thinking about G-d.

see, G-d and me, we have a strange relationship. i wish with all my heart i could believe in G-d, unfailingly, the way my son believes in the tooth fairy or even in me. but whereas my son sees a coin under his pillow or clean clothes unfailingly piled on his chair every few days, i don’t see anything tangible that cannot be explained. my heart has always wanted to believe, but the analyst in me has struggled. after all, there is a lot of scientific evidence which, for me, makes it pretty clear.  personally, i don’t believe in the bible as the word of G-d; i believe it is a wonderful recounting of how the world happened, according to the people who wrote it, full of their attempts to make sense of what was happening, complete with deus ex machina moments galore. (i have loved reading it, as literature, since i was a child. when i think about it, english major that i am, it isn’t very different from the way the greeks and romans wrote their mythologies.) and yet, i find myself praying to G-d at services, talking to G-d when things make no sense. and then, i am left wondering: with Whom am i actually talking? am i talking to myself?

and these awful things that happen. if there really was a Being who loved us, why would He/She let this stuff go down? who lives and who dies — it is all so capricious. maybe i’m still bitter. see, in high school, my mom ended up with cancer. at the same time, my friend’s mom did, too. my mom survived two bouts. his mom didn’t. grateful as i have always been that my mom is still a pain in my ass to this very day, i never, ever forgot what a heart-wrenching, horrific shock it was for my friend and his family, all good people who didn’t deserve such pain. so, in short, i have read what theologians have had to say about this — why bad things happen to good people, yada yada —  and yet, for me, it doesn’t compute. it doesn’t work. it simply doesn’t add up.

but today, as i was singing along with george in the car, i realized: maybe it will never make sense. and maybe by not understanding why horrible things happen grinds home the idea that yes, i am just human.  i need to accept that. but maybe, just maybe,  i need to appeal to something bigger than me. maybe i am talking to a spirit of goodness. (no, i’m not a hippie here. just a mom.) yeah, other people can call that spirit G-d or whatever, but to me, i want to believe that there is some spark in the universe, a flash of goodness that can be inside all of us if we let it. no, it probably didn’t create the universe or hear my prayers to save my cat (he died though i prayed and prayed he wouldn’t) or outline one specific way that all people must live their lives. but that spark is the infinite possibility that there can be and there always must be something good in all of us — and that all of us can use that good for the world. clearly, on dark days like this, i realize that not everyone is possessed by that positive, and it saddens me.  and in prayer, or in my conversations, maybe i am reaching out to the universe, hopeful for a better day, for strength, and for peace.

all of which i might find within myself, if i just look carefully.

you don’t have to be jewish or christian or muslim or buddhist or a subscriber to any particular organized religion to feel this way, i think. (and if your religion gives you the comfort that i was lacking, more power to you. just use that power to bring about peace.) george sings about really wanting to know his lord, really being a part of his lord. and on days like this one, i don’t know about knowing G-d. but i do know that i want to believe — and i have to believe — that good does start out inside each and every one of us. some of us ignore it; some of us are ill and can’t find it. but it is there.

and believing that buoys me.

bus stop

bus stop

here’s a back-to-school equation for you: bad decisions + poor communication = really pissed off parents.

so arlington county public schools is a pretty awesome district. we moved here specifically for the schools, and we’ve been quite happy overall with our kids’ experiences. we’ve especially loved our elementary school, taylor elementary (go tigers!) the administration is open and receptive; the teachers have been caring; and so far, so good. my house is .9 miles from the school; and we are among the people situated closest to the school from out of our school bus stop pals. most are further away, certainly a mile or more. [pay attention to this info;  there will be a test later. maybe.]

this summer, we received two letters from APS.  the first letter from our superintendent, dated july 9, told us about first day packets (which we can now fill out online at the Student Info Center — yay, arlington! you answered some of my prayers!) also, it hinted at fun things to come in transportation land. APS apparently had hired consultants (motto: got a problem? if not, we’ll show you that you do!) to help figure out the nightmarish transportation conundrums facing a school system that is overcrowded and yet still growing. yes, changes were afoot:

“With the start of the school year this fall, we will be moving forward with the plans that the Office of Transportation has outlined. One of the first steps underway includes the implementation of bus‐routing software to help us plan routes that are more efficient so we can maximize the capacity of our bus fleet.

The second step that is critical to this plan is to serve students who are eligible to receive bus transportation services. As outlined in School Board policy, elementary school students who live more than one mile from school and secondary school students who live more than 1½ miles from school will receive bus transportation.

In early August, principals will be sending families of students who are eligible for transportation services a letter that will include their child’s bus stop and route. This addresses a critical safety concern for students who ride buses and allows us to better communicate and serve families when we may experience a delay or other changes in service.”

hmm. we’re .9 mile from school, but others are more than a mile. i hope we get that info soon, i thought. i will need to plan if my kid loses his school bus. it’s a 20 minute walk to school, barring he doesn’t get run down on North 31st Street (motto: Death Race 2000 wasn’t filmed here, but it could have been), or wiped out walking up our congested main street (the equivalent of 10 flights of stairs while carrying a 35+ pound backpack — yeah, yeah, you walked to school uphill in the snow both ways when you were young. hey, the 1970s called and wants your sad, fat ass back. would love to see some naysaying adults walk this walk with a backpack in either snow or 90+ degree weather during rush hour.) if i walk with him, that’s 80 minutes a day i have to carve out. daily. you know, from my bon-bon eating, soap opera-watching life as a stay-at-home mother. (isn’t that what we stay-at-home-moms do? oh yeah, i do have contract work. and, uh, i dunno. basically keeping things afloat. but i digress. per usual.)

there’s no short-cut to school, unless you consider a wooded park behind our house. and anyone who knows kids knows that given the choice of walking down and up a long, boring, traffic-lined sidewalk with stinky cars all around or walking through a park, well, the park wins. only this park has no path directly to school from our neighborhood. imagine the boy, running first through my kindly neighbor’s yard to get to the park, then crossing the stream that runs through the park, and then, going through a heavily wooded, very hilly area to get to and from school each day! yee ha! only now imagine 20, 30 children doing that each day. and no, we don’t live in east boofoo, nowhereland. we are less than one mile from a major city.

so. not. safe.

and i’m digressing yet again.

fast forward your little time machine to early august. august 3 to be exact. and heeeeere’s another letter. oh goody. i’ll get some clarification, right?

Transportation Assignment Letters: Transportation Services will be mailing letters to the parents of APS students who
are eligible for bus transportation later this month. Please look for your letter in the mail the week of August 20. It will include your child’s bus route number, bus stop and pickup time. The lower portion of the letter includes a “voucher.” Please be sure to tear it off and have your child carry it and present it to the driver when boarding the bus.

Walker Letters: A separate letter will be mailed for children who live in the school “walk zone.” Bus transportation is available only for students who are eligible for transportation and have received a transportation “voucher” in the mail. Otherwise, we hope you will encourage your student to walk or bike to school – this is a healthier option and will also help our environment by reducing the number of cars transporting students to and from school. Information about biking or walking to school is available online at or

whatwhatWHAT? so let me get this straight: you MAY BE taking away my child’s bus, but i won’t know until i receive a letter posted august 20th? seriously? half of arlington is on vacation in late august; we are tied to the congressional vacation schedule, and you people know it. so you are sending information that is critical at a time when tons of affected parties aren’t around? and even if they are, you are giving people roughly two weeks to figure out how exactly to collect their children from a school that is already wildly congested at pick-up time as is? there is no parking, people. it is a safety disaster that is nearly averted every single day of the year. and now, you are adding MORE CARS to the picture?

let me go to the Student Info Center. i’m SURE there will be answers there. let’s see… BC has a middle school bus assignment, which is good since her middle school is a 10-minute drive from here, and that’s with miss jerseygirl driver at the wheel. let’s have a look-see at jools’ info:

To School: Information cannot be found relating to how this student is transported to school.

From School: Information cannot be found relating to how this student is transported from school.

uhm, so let me get this straight. are you replacing buses with star trek transporters? because i don’t see a bus stop here. i don’t see anything here.  i talk with a friend in another neighborhood, and she indicates that her former bussed students are now being designated as walkers.

this doesn’t look good.

so, i call the transportation answer center, the one proudly mentioned in one of the aforementioned letters. the one that’s supposed to help me, right? answers? the lady who answered the phone there had no answers for me. none.

so i went with some parents from a nearby-neighborhood who are in the same boat that i’m in. off we trekked to the APS school board meeting to learn about the new transportation plan. i listened carefully to what the director of transportation said. and i still have no answers. i *did* hear someone say that the children are getting bus PASSES to ride busses and not bus VOUCHERS (which, i believe, is what they were called in one of the aforementioned APS letters.) and all i kept thinking was, really? my kid can’t always remember to bring home his homework. how long do you think it will be before my kid loses THAT? (assuming he is even on a bus, that is.) i even got up to speak about my situation, and other concerned parents spoke, too. i understand that only certain schools are affected by losing some busstops. is it just that our school has more helicopter parents who recognized this and jumped on it? are we just canaries in the coal mine?

(sorry. i love the police.)

anyway, i am left perplexed. this process never involved me or any parents i know. it is greatness thrust upon us, with very little time to make arrangements. this is not a matter of people being too lazy to walk. some of these kids will be walking down major streets with no sidewalks. some of these kids will be crossing streets where cars don’t even stop when a school bus has it’s flashing red lights on (North 31st Street, I’m looking at YOU.) according to the transportation director’s remarks last night at the meeting, the school district has added 1000 new students to its rolls this year but 0 new busses. Zero. Zilch. (maybe, children WILL be using star trek transporters to get to and from homeroom.) and, to paraphrase a quote that sage of sages bart simpson, he was proud of it, man.

it just takes one little kid to become road pizza and then your big ol’ cost savings on a bus goes out the window, folks.

can’t wait for these infamous bus/walker letters to get received. i bet when other parents discover — SURPRISE! — that their little kids are now walkers that there will be more  gnashing of teeth, shock and awe.

in the meantime, i feel like APS is taking people like me for a ride.



just read this article in the Washington Post. it makes me want to run screaming. with scissors in hand, too.

here you have frugal mama (check out her site.) she has some neat recipes and ideas. she also has some lovely photos of her beautiful children. i’m sure she’s a really excellent mom, and i don’t take issue with that end of things. such a clean, nicely-decorated house! such well-scrubbed kids! and how big of her — she saves money by sending her children to the public schools. that’s what passes for down-to-earth, you know.

there’s this wonderful fantasy moms, especially urban ones, foster: the one about the simple life where they grow their veggies for the kids, watch little to no TV, and have this contained existence over which they have perfect control. this seems to be the idea this mom blogger is perpetuating. la la la — see my house, organized with categorized mason jars, toys all contained in container store containers, my kids eating natural veggies and fruits from the farmers market. pinterest feeds on this sort of thing; i’m guilty of harboring the fantasy myself at times. and who doesn’t want to spend more time with their family? (okay, let me rephrase that: who doesn’t want to spend more quality time with their families?)  however, as a mom (and a blogger since 2002, long before most of these mommy bloggers were mommies, i would add), i find some aspects of this existence head-scratchingly irritating.

for starters, i cannot bring myself to take any sort of financial advice from a woman who has no retirement savings. unless she expects her children to come circle Marmee and support her in her old age, she’d better start contemplating that idea or else hope that these frugal ideas get kicked into high gear for her future blog where she extols the virtues of being a frugal senior citizen (with hopefully no medical issues to speak of.) i don’t know how fashionable it will be to eat cat food while waiting for your social security check to come in.

secondly, life can be controlled (to a certain point) until kids hit their teen years, when pop culture and hormones intermingle in such a way where you may ultimately be making the choice: have your kid conform to your TV-free lifestyle (not that TV is a treasure, but put yourself in the shoes of the average teen) and be ostracized socially, or relent and let those new demons into the home. lady, do you remember middle school? it’s tough enough because everyone is different (and different, as we all know, is so horrible at that age) — but you might be setting your kids up to be sitting alone in the library at lunchtime… well, maybe they won’t be alone. they may have the tiger moms’ kids in there, though they’ll be too busy studying to talk to your kids.

you don’t go grocery shopping anymore; you do all your shopping online with amazon prime. i know that’s a tip that will work well for folks on food stamps.

finally, how freaking frugal are you, really, when you can afford a house in NW DC and afford renovations? Why not move into a less tony area and see how much you enjoy the perks of frugality. not saying that frugality isn’t a noble idea. but I do wonder about this patina of elegance that this sort of idea has gotten these days. it’s a frugality that appears to come straight out of a Pottery Barn ad. like your home decor.

let’s call this all what it is: upper-middle-class fluffy fantasy of slowing down your family life. that’s nice if you can afford it. unfortunately, a lot of people in this world cannot. they are actually working to earn money for things, and not just $1000 tables (which you just had to have. hopefully, you aren’t one of those who frowns on welfare families who buy things that are frills when they cannot even afford the necessities.)

it’s awfully easy to be frugal when you have money.

f*** you (with dedication to the susan g. komen foundation)

f*** you (with dedication to the susan g. komen foundation)

susan g. komen foundation, this one’s for you.

yesterday morning, i woke up to my favorite newscasters sharing the info that the susan g. komen foundation had decided to no longer provide funding to planned parenthood because of their relatively-new policy of not giving funding to any grantees currently under investigation. i first thought to myself, wow. this can’t possibly be a smart public relations move. and my second thought?

f*** you, susan g. komen foundation.

so basically, the same people who have an army of lawyers running about suing everyone who uses the phrase for the cure, the same people who have spent oodles of money blocking legislation that would actually help women who are patients, the same people headed by a woman who has  corporate interests in multiple organizations that might cloud her original purpose — are now messing with poor women and their ability to get cancer screenings.

particular bronx cheers go to this woman and this woman, both of whom are right-to-lifers who apparently care more about a blastocyst than a real, living human being, as blogger southernbeale shared in a righteous rant. who knows — they could be pressuring other cancer charities as well. here’s hoping those charities don’t bow to this sort of pressure.

i’m just delighted to see people taking the opportunity to send pledges to planned parenthood. many are asking that their donation be sent in honor of the susan g. komen race for the cure, which ensures that their honoree will get a lovely card from planned parenthood. i’m sure it’s suitable for framing. (i’d frame it, anyway.) in one day, over $600k rolled in to planned parenthood. so hey, all you right-to-lifers — you’d better start coughing up some cash to support SGK now.

yes, yes, they are a private nonprofit. they are entitled to give money to any organizations they want. but see, there are all these people who have dedicated time and energy toward fundraising for this behemoth of a group. those adorable ladies in pink who walk miles and miles and collect dollars upon dollars to help in the fight against breast cancer. they’re not going to shill for you anymore. they were willing to raise gazillions of dollars for you when you were a fighter for the cure. now, you’re apparently a fighter for the cure — for anti-abortion folks, only.

(note to karen handel: you’d better start your serious outreach to the teaparty types. like, yesterday.)

and another thing: people aren’t going to be buying pink shit anymore. corporate sponsors don’t like when you up and change your mission like that. they get jumpy. more importantly to them, their investors sometimes get a bit jumpy. and you know the expression: money talks, and bullshit walks. those corporate sponsors will walk right out of your big-ass, multimillion-dollar pink tent.

and now people are learning more about your history. as for me, after reading lots of material, i have come to the conclusion that you’ve turned into a big-ol’ marketing machine. fuck the cure — instead, let’s market our organization.  to paraphrase from one of my political heroes, it’s about the brand, stupid. that, and our executive paychecks and possibly our political clout.

don’t misunderstand me: i’m willing to listen about how your organization’s dollars have actually funded any sort of progress towards a cure. my mother lost both breasts to breast cancer, so believe-you-me, i am VERY interested in progress toward a cure. give me a holler when you’ve got that info.

in the meantime, what you have here is a brand, a brand supported by marketing and marketing and more marketing. and honey, lots of marketing dollars will shrivel up drier than a witch’s, well, you know what body part i’m talkin’ ’bout. SOMEONE’S got to pay all the lawyers and nancy brinker’s and karen handel’s and all those other folks’ salaries.

but it won’t be me.

i’ll just post this video for now. for the cure.

getting better

getting better

some days, we need to see miracles. i found this: an article with an audio/video from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, telling everyone she’s getting stronger. it’s very powerful. and since i’m feeling a bit down today, i don’t really have a lot to contribute to the blogoverse, so the least i think i could do was share something positive.

if i figure out how to get the video in here, i will. but in the meantime, you will find it in the article.



it really is.

i spent the day hearing people talking about what happened at penn state.  and ultimately, it will take a court of law to determined what truly happened at penn state. but if the reports are true, then some horrible child abuse happened there, and many people looked the other way.

what’s surprising to me, though, is how many people felt sympathy for winningest coach Joe Paterno.  sure, he spoke a lot about honor. but when he had the opportunity to do the honorable thing and save some children from the clutches of a pedophile, he did the minimum. and apparently, if reports are true, he may have been evasive and downplayed what happened.  he’s not alone in this, of course, but he is a person who has built a career on all sorts of platitudes to live by.

Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger but it won’t taste good. – Joe Paterno

and now, students at penn state are outraged. are they outraged because of what happened to innocent children? are they outraged by an administration that looked the other way, probably thanks to a combo of cronyism and intent to keep the house of cards standing solidly? are they even outraged by the fact that they’ve been sold down the river by the university they profess to love?


they are tipping a news van and protesting because they want Joe Paterno back.

they are concerned because this university that they bought into is not providing them with the JoPa experience. not because it has permitted crimes to persist; no, because of their own selfishness. we bought this myth, damn it, and we want it to persist. we’re paying for a football school; and we want it now.

they are penn state. hopefully, they are not the only ones who are penn state.

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