Saturday, December 15, 2007

breastfeeding- still a punk act

This week I visited a sweet couple from church who just had a baby. The new mom was having trouble with her latch (no, you non-lactaters out there, that ain't a euphemism) and so when she started trying to nurse, I gave her a few pointers.

Who would have thought I was engaging in some porny act?!

According to the fabulous finslippy (aka Alice and her new blog Wonderland), YouTube does! Apparently YouTube hosts videos of people doing unspeakable acts with dolphins (sorry, B). But videos of mamas nursing are unacceptable! (I looked for "breastfeeding" on YouTube myself. There are some really lovely videos of babies nursing, thank goodness. Not enough useful information attached to those, unfortunately. But at least there are some examples for those of us who never saw it growing up and had to "fake it till we make it.")

Alice's post talks passionately and intelligently about how American culture cannot seem to reconcile the beauty and utility of women's bodies. Though there are some bf-ing vids, they're followed by completely trashy comments. It's totally wrong that women should feel ashamed of the enormous power we have to nourish others.

For God's sake, I often think of James and Kati Kim, the young couple with two daughters who got lost in the snowy woods, and how she kept her kids alive by nursing them. She kept them alive by feeding them with her own body. It's a fucking MIRACLE, what we can do! It is a miracle.

I think what people have a problem with is that babies are attached to something that people feel are solely a sex tool. Oops- but breasts are actually useful. Babies and breasts can't go together-- that's against the LAW, right? Like child porn?

We are a backwards society, sometimes. It's more than a shame.

The Golden Suicides

Anyone with insight on this one, please weigh in. Nancy Jo Sales has once again delivered an engaging, personal piece. The subjects were tragic, yet it was challenging to connect with their pathos. It was as if they were behind a glass case, presented as delicate specimens to observe with great caution. The sense of distance is perhaps intentional, as if we could never know them. But even that's not quite right, because there are plenty of examples of their friends' involvement in their lives. Maybe it's just the way they chose to present themselves. I could get a sense of say, Katherine Heigl pumping gas and doing laundry, but it almost seemed like these two were too precious to engage in all of life-- from the mundane to the sacred arts they loved. Perhaps not too precious-- perhaps they regarded life as too short to spend on things that had no personal signature.

I checked out some of Jeremy Blake's work online, and it's dizzying, ethereal, sometimes haunting.

Is this just a cautionary tale of two people who got so entwined in each other that the paranoia they each nurtured became all-consuming? An elegy to a couple who could have done much more? A remembrance by someone who was one degree of separation away from the tragedy?

first fig

'First Fig'

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay


tonglen- a moment of actual Buddhism

What do you do when it's 3 am and your baby is up again, inconsolable?

You think about all the other parents who are up at 3 am with you, holding their inconsolable babies. You breathe in and think about how they feel just like you, how you're connected to them because you're all up at this ungodly dark hour, trying to soothe a baby, trying not to think about how deliciously warm and soft your bed is. You breathe out and think of the peace we all want to feel, the comfort we all want for our babies.

I remember practicing this as suggested-- in the middle of a traffic jam. I was holding my breath, in a hurry, when I remembered that every other person on the road felt the exact same way. So I breathed in our frustration, breathed out some peace and unwound a bit, and lo and behold. Traffic didn't move faster but I felt a lot better.

Pema Chodron says it in another way here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Heigl's Anatomy

The cover of the January 2008 features an absolutely stunning photograph of Katherine Heigl. She looks elegant, intelligent and... sprightly? Active? As if she's straightening her fabulous hat while riding on some young stud's shoulders. (I must say, in my humble opinion, it's quite a contrast to the Nicole Kidman cover. Kidman looked beautiful but disturbingly detached or vacant, and I thought it was a little weird the way she was holding her shirt open. Ick.)

The title of the piece is kind of unfortunate-- Heigl's Anatomy? Um, yikes. But it's a relief to read the piece and realize that they've showcased the part of her anatomy that really counts-- her brain.

There's been a lot of talk about Heigl's comment that "'Knocked Up' was a little sexist." I was interested to read her personal take on the part of Alison, because I found myself feeling conflicted after watching the movie. It was definitely funny, but there were moments I was wondering why that level of disgusting-ness and idiocy was allowed from the men-- but not the women. There was an interesting post about this after an article on Heigl's comment on the post suggests that it might be funny to have a movie about slacker moms.

Slacker moms, people! It's kind of revolutionary. The poster didn't mean slacking to a level that would equal neglect/abuse. She meant:

Not hyperscheduling the kids.
Not volunteering to be head of PTA, head of church school, soccer coach *and* Scout leader (and maybe resenting the lack of downtime).
Not stressing about every unfluffed pillow.

That doesn't sound like slacker mommying. That sounds like smart mommying to me!

But back to the article. Heigl comes across as down to earth, smart and interesting. If she sometimes also says things that me cringe ("I had to sit tight until he proposed" even though she also admitted being impatient and wanting the relationship to move to marriage), I chalked that up to not censoring herself or cleaning it up too much for the interview.

She also described with candor the childhood experience of losing her brother and how that affected her relationship with her mother. I think it's unusual to hear about such a functional mother/manager relationship, especially one where mother and daughter are so close yet where the daughter has another significant relationship. (Think LiLo, Brit, etc.) I've got a daughter, and while I certainly don't plan on becoming her manager, I am intrigued by thinking about how our relationship will change with time. I wonder what causes some mothers and daughters to enjoy a close relationship and others, not so much, even if both are good people.

VF readers, discuss!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

when your kid asks why the tree shines so brightly...

you tell her or him it's because of the eels.

"If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree." I think this is the greatest quote ever. Inventor Kazuhiko Minawa found a way to harness eel energy to light up a Christmas tree! It's so popular in Japan! Reuters says so.

Talk about being energy efficient. What a fun way to teach kids about that!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ok to go

Ever since Minkie said her first word ("duck," at 8 months ish), I've been secretly and happily holding on to the notion that she will not be small and pre-verbal forever. She will one day be able to tell me her wants, her needs, her dreams, her peeves. She will be able to get herself a glass of water and go the toilet on her own, maybe without even letting me know. She will have ideas.

At some points I felt some guilt for feeling relieved that infancy doesn't last. And then a little apprehension realizing that none of this lasts.

But I also realized that it's ok-- maybe even a good thing-- to not want to hold onto infancy and want her to remain an infant forever. Maybe it's a good thing to let go of each stage and to let her grow. I'm sure there will be a stage I want to hang onto, and I'll have to remember this then.

Someone once said that from pregnancy onward (or, from starting the adoption process onward), parenting is a continual process of letting go.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


When I was pregnant, I think I read somewhere that pregnancy and parenting all comes down to the art of letting go. Continually, over and over again. At birth, at cutting the cord, at every stage as the child continually grows into her own space and personhood.

I am at the weaning stage. It is a gradual process for Minkie and me. The slowness is hard. It's one step forward, one step back (which sounds like we're not progressing toward weaning, and it sometimes it feels like we're not, but I think we are, so let me amend that to two steps forward, one step back).

I miss having regular cycles. I miss the progesterone high of pregnancy (that's some good stuff, progesterone). It's a rough landing. Minkie's having a growth spurt and wanted to nurse more lately, and I found myself melting into bliss this evening as she nursed because nursing is the one time I totally focus on beautiful things. I think about flowers, about D, about cheery things. I do not worry about the state of my parents' relationship, my mother's mental health, my husband's lack of sleep, my own harried schedule.

As weaning continues, I will have to answer the hard question: when during the day will I provide myself the opportunity to lavish in beautiful thoughts when Minkie no longer needs to nurse?

Joe Frank, anyone?

Anyone out there heard of Joe Frank? I was in the car this evening and stopped the dial at 94.1, where there was this guy babbling on about the awfulness of anthropologists studying Mayans, and then he mentioned eating slugs, sacrificing young girls, baboon mating rituals, and why should universities spend one red cent on studying these horrible rituals and people...

Usually I skip over this stuff because who has time for radio rants. Yet, there was something weird and compelling about this that made me want to listen, and I realized it was the jazzy vamp in the background, repeating a few bars of an eminently listen-able tune. I was answering the guy in my head, "We could learn a lot about ourselves, our culture, what we sacrifice, by learning about others." This guy was so see-no-evil and it was killing me.

Then there were some random calls that eased that tension... some guy asking Joe out. Some other guy trying to get into a religious debate with Mr. Frank.

I looked him up, and it turns out Joe Frank is a performance artist/radio DJ. I completely appreciated his work, and I don't say that about all or even most performance art.

Friday, December 07, 2007


I came across the word "reverence" in a poem. Just reading it makes me want to slow down. The word itself inspires quiet, slow contemplation, and an expectation of the divine. It reminds me of "river." The ebb and flow, the grace of water flowing over rock, the edges blotted by mud and flowers. Watching Minkie as she plays-- banging something over and over, inspecting the floor really carefully, feeling the texture of the wall-- it's another way to slow down. Maybe it's a good way to practice feeling reverent.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Holiday Traditions with a little one

Holidays are here- happy December everyone! Whether you do Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, solstice or another celebration, it's time to decorate. (If you do no decorating, you get to enjoy a quiet winter!)

I would love to do a tree-- and would love to celebrate a Druid solstice ceremony to honor where we Christians got the whole tree thing from anyway! Heh.

But a tree is tricky for lots of reasons, ranging from environmental to how do you keep an inquisitive young toddler from pulling the whole damn thing over or from eating the (lovely-smelling) needles?

I'm thinking of buying a couple of plain wreaths and decorating them, or gathering pine branches (maybe through some stealthy midnight suburban neighborhood pruning- ha, I wouldn't, but it's fun to think I might) and turning them into wreaths. That's get the holiday scent in the air, plus give us a place to hang ornaments, plus be a handy thing to put gifts under.

What's everyone doing? If you're reading this, post a comment about your holiday ideas!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Procrastinators Anon- Finish those crafts!!

If you're like me, you can meet work deadlines, but try to finish that beaded bracelet or the freezer paper stenciled (FPS) onesie, and suddenly there are fifteen other things that seem more important.

Well, it's that time of year! Time to shake off your mantel of humility (and/or laziness) and boldly share your crafty goodness with the world. Time, that is, to set a deadline and get crafting!

Here are my tips for getting from idea to finished product. I'm thinking of FPS'ing, but these can apply to anything.

1. Find your calendar. Write your crafting deadline in pen. If you can see when you need to have that shirt done and mailed for it to get there before Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa, you're much more likely to get it done on time.

2. Set aside five minutes to gather materials. Just five minutes! If you don't have everything you need, pen a trip to the store in the calendar too. Even if you're doing today, write it in. Then you can cross it off!

3. Here's the fun part if you're FPSing. Tear off sheets of freezer paper and lay them around the house! Put a sheet and a pencil near the computer, in the bathroom, by the bedside, next to the tv. Wherever you're likely to have a minute to doodle.

KEY: Don't worry about the item you're going to FPS-- just get your design down.

4. After you've doodled, gather your designs and cut them out. Collect them in one place and collect your items to be FPSed. Now it will be *much* easier to line everything up and do one big iron-on.

5. If you've gotten this far, painting them will be a breeze. The key here is, don't get bogged down picking out the perfect color! Again, especially when FPSing, (but also when knitting, drawing, ribbon-ing, or whatever) this can be a true drag on your creativity. Take the NaNoWriMo approach and just throw on whatever color your hot little hand comes upon. I promise it will be better than nothing.

And voila!!! You are well on your way to crafting yourself some fine holiday gifts. I'm off!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Perfect Spacing

Ok, you have a baby, and within minutes someone is asking you, "So when's the next one?" I remember thinking, "The next what? The next poop? The next feeding? The next nap? Because surely you did not mean the next CHILD. Oh no you couldn't have meant that."

But they *did*-- crazy, huh?

Which means that for the past year, and especially after Paloma turned one, I have been madly trying to work out what the Perfect Spacing is. (Fortunately for me, I knew I wanted two, so I didn't have to go through the whole agony of whether I even wanted to conceive again.)

Things I considered with The Perfect Spacing:
- would they be friends/play together/have anything in common?
- would I be changing two sets of diapers at once?
- would I paying for two college tuitions at once?

What's too close? What's too far?

And then I realized with relief-- nobody the hell knows!!!

Sibs who are two years apart or ten years apart may play together-- or may not. One might have an outgoing personality, one might want to hole up alone with a book all day and night. I've met people who love being 3 years apart, others who didn't get along with their 3-year-apart sib at all. Some who were friends as kids, drifted as adults, and vice versa. Some who were eight and more years apart who became very close. I think you just never know how the personalities and the parenting will all interact-- the best you can do is love 'em all.

As far as diapers, I think I want to avoid two in diapers at once, so that puts me at at least two years apart (which, when Minkie turns 15 months in 2 months, is a non-issue).

As far as college costs, people tell me that if they overlap you get lots of federal assistance, but I am not counting on even low-interest loans in this crazy political climate. As much as possible, I just want to sock away cash. And I suppose that makes it look like I'm going for a four year sib split.

But at the end of the day, what I decided is-- I'm going to decide to have the second the way I decided to have the first-- when I damn well felt like it. :) You know, that intuition thing worked out really well the first time. I see no reason to abandon it now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the romantic scent of petroleum

I'll be the first to admit it-- when my Vanity Fair comes in the mail, I kind of *like* the sneeze-inducing perfumey cloud that envelopes my head as I tear open the plastic bag and flip through the pages. BTW, I'm one of those who looks at all the ads just to see if I can understand the art and story, but couldn't care less about what they're trying to sell to me. The perfume ads are always the cheesiest.

Now, I've heard about the petrochemicals that are in our favorite perfumes. I don't wear perfume, but I like the romantic idea of it. But toxins and petrochemicals are just kind of gross. The rise of chemicals in our lives is making people super-sensitive to exposures of any kind. So even though I only wear perfume like once every year, I wasn't about to start.

Count on to come through! For those of us who want to occasionally (or regularly!) smell pretty without being a chemical dump (and having the accompanying skin rash), I give you Natural Perfumes. At the end of the short article, there are links to quality perfume makers who use-- get this-- ACTUAL flowers and herbs in their perfumes!



There's nothing quite as sweet as the feeling of your baby's soft hands stroking your chest during a nap, nursing or (the rare) quiet time.

There is nothing quite as painful as the feeling of your baby's curious little finger shooting up your nose and pinching with the grip of a sadistic lobster on steroids.

And there's nothing like parenthood to teach me new ways of appreciating balance.

Monday, November 19, 2007

a leaf in the hair is worth ten on the ground

Minkie had a day of quality yard time last week- front and back, both! She could not have been happier. She and Daddy played tag in the front yard. Her version is to run a little and then fall down, laughing like crazy. She then realized she loved rolling around in the grass. Her hair was a bit leafy.

I took her into the backyard and she quickly discovered a tiny, long-forgotten potted plant, some kind of succulent. It was dried and the roots did not hold it in the soil, so when she turned it over and shook it, the soil and plant fell out. I helped her stuff soil back into the little pot. Then she climbed into her play structure (about a foot off the ground, with a slide), sat down on the platform, and proceeded to dump out and re-stuff the soil into the pot. Her hands were covered with dirt; it was wedged under her nails.

I looked at my little nature girl. I had to stop myself from taking the dirt and pot away from her and brushing her off-- I had to remind myself to let her play.

I remembered when I worked one summer as a cashier at a Very Nice Department Store, in the Very Nice children's shoe section. A girl found a pair of sneakers she liked and ran around with them on, delighted. I liked watching her have such a good time-- until her mom or caretaker said sharply, "Come here and sit down like a lady!"

Minkie may have a leaf in her hair and dirt under her nails. There may be a time when I forget to relax and let her have fun; I may take away the dirt before she's ready, just because I've forgotten that fun is more important in that moment than perfect grooming. But that day, I'm so glad I remembered in time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

lip gloss review- Alba Botanica Terra Gloss

My lip gloss collection needed refreshing, and I decided I'm going all natural. I may still use the (sigh, beautiful) Clinique Black Honey tubes that I have, but will try to direct my dollars to the products with more natural ingredients. (Hope lives-- Jane Iredale's mineral makeup produces Babe, one of my favorite colors... though I'm not sure if it's got lead. Blah. Anyhoo...)UPDATED: I checked at the Cosmetics Database and it looks lead-free! Woot! Check your own brands-- many do have lead.

I give you Alba Botanica's Terra Gloss in Garnet!

Those of you who have read my lip gloss/makeup entries know that I will not suffer the wrong colors for brown skin- of which there are many to fear!!! You know what I'm talking about- the light pinks that look ashy, the jungle oranges that look trashy, the crazy purples that do not belong on any Earthly life form, yet are foisted upon brown skinned people since we're "so exotic!" Ick.

By the way- can someone explain to me what olive skin is? Olive to me is either green or black, and altogether delicious, but it is not a skin color. ?

OK- so I was wandering through Whole Foods (*never* a good idea, people! Do Not Wander through Whole Paycheck! You gotta be in and out or they'll getcha (or at least your wallet) for sure. Damn them and their organic local sustainable ethical... ethics. Even if their CEO sucks.)

And I saw the Alba Botanica Terra Glosses. They're different from the balms, and the colors are new. Which is good, because I tried the TerraBalm in Blaze and it was a fuschia mess on me. But the gloss in Garnet is *gorgeous.* It's quite sheer and hits that perfect red-pink balance, which is challenging to achieve.

The only quibble I have is the scent-- sort of this overly sweet, marshmallow-y bubble gummy ickiness.

But the fabulousness of the color won out. After all, finding the right lip gloss is a never-ending quest. Thus, I shelled out the $5.99 ish.

And I'm happy I did! This tube comes with me everywhere. I think it might be a new standard. Good stuff!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grandma's hilarious addition to the Solemn Dialogue on Race

It's 8:00 PM. Minkie's gone to sleep and I just popped in a nice, relaxing, evening yoga DVD. I am hoping that no one watches me.

My mom makes herself a snack and settles in the glider behind me.

I am working myself into a shoulderstand when Mom says, "Is she Indian? She looks *just like you*!"

"No she doesn't," I grunt, watching as Hemalaya, the teacher, rolls out of the pose.

Mom isn't blinking. "Yes she does! That's you!" She is excited.

"Mom! I look like a lot of Indian people!" I tell her. I have been told all my life that I look like the quintessential Kerala female. I was born and brought up in the U.S., so I just take that on faith.

"Do you know her?" Mom asks.

If I didn't know it was my mother sitting there, snacking and chatting behind me, I would have *sworn* it was a white lady from NotDiverseLand. Nope- my own mother, born and raised in Kerala, India, immigrated in her early thirties, is asking me if I know the Indian woman in the tv doing yoga. Because we look so alike.

And that is your parenting moment of Zen for the day.

weigh in! the mommy haircut

I think everyone has one-- their idea of what a Mommy Haircut is. Whether they *want* that cut or not is another story.

I have been thinking about going for a new 'do. Depending on the day, I want to do something drastic or something similar to what I have. I do have an idea of what a Mommy cut is: anything that makes me feel boring and "meh," and I don't want to plunk down lots of money just to have a "meh" haircut, so.

Bangs? Bangs are a maybe. I look at how cute Sasha Cagen looks in the blogger video of her (I think it's on amazon, too, on the page with her new book of To Do Lists). But bangs can go horribly, horribly wrong. Or at least look boring. They need upkeep (as does most interesting hairdos).

Then there's the short pixie, which I love and used to have, but feel like I'd like to shed the last few baby pounds to fit into it. Also, I like the feel of my long hair.

Just not the boringness!

Some days I covet the strong bangs and bob look, sort of harkening back to Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago." I think it's such a sassy and stylish look.

And yet! How soon it would grow out and become a mess.

Am I talking myself out of this haircut? Ack! Weigh in! Tell me the looks you love and save me from hair oblivion.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Minkie is a brave girl. She was playing in a bookstore and fell and scraped her cheek on a cardboard box. My heart sank and I held her tight as she cried (and she does this extremely heartstring-tugging thing where if she's really hurt, she'll cry, then have her mouth open in a shocked silent "O" for a minute, then really scream. Oh the tears!). I cared for the scrape and then, while I still felt bad about it, she was off and playing.

Talk about being in the moment. I don't know if the pain was still there, but the sudden shock of the injury was in the past, and she was on to the next. She reminds me not to rehash too much, either physical or emotional booboos.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

another take on mornings

D came home very late last night from work. This is not unusual for him- if only his students knew!

At 10:30 PM, I heard it on the monitor: Minkie awoke briefly, cried out, fell back asleep.

At 11:30 PM, I could not keep my eyes open; I could not wait up for him. I went to bed where Minkie was already asleep in her crib. I am in the process of nightweaning her. Also, due to our circumstances in suburbia, we are sharing a room. Thus nightweaning is a challenge.

At around midnight, D slipped in.

At 1:30, Minkie awoke, cried out, listened to me to talk to her soothingly from our bed, settled back down.

At 3:30, Minkie awoke, cried out, listened to me to talk to her soothingly from our bed, settled back down.

At 4:45, Minkie awoke and cried out. I decided her night was officially over and brought her into our bed to nurse and nap.

I fell asleep, and she shifted, and I awoke. Usually I'm so groggy at this point that I can't see straight. But today I noticed the intense, flame-orange streak in the sky- sunrise. It's not the first sunrise I've seen, especially as a relatively new parent, but it's the most vividly colored.

In about two minutes, it had faded to a nondescript pink, a washed out blue. It's the first morning in a really long time that I felt lucky that my baby awoke me at that hour.

Friday, November 09, 2007

the leaves have changed

Yesterday I took Paloma into the great outdoors that is our little suburban front yard.

She *loved* it. There is no end to the circles she can run, stopping to pick up crunchy leaves or squeeze a couple of rocks or just fall down laughing.

I noticed that the leaves have changed from the brilliant hues of early fall to the serious, crackly, dry brown indicating winter. She stood leaning against my legs for a minute, and we just stood there.

I thought about things-- an Amy Winehouse song, my dad's oral surgery-- and then I realized I could be thinking about nothing at all, just standing there and observing the moment. And I did that, and it was really a beautiful fall moment-- clean and austere, and a little bit lonely, except for the little girl standing with me.

What's this blog about?

I really appreciate experiencing a moment of peace in the day. You too?

I'm a mom of a one year old, working from home for a nonprofit, saying "yes" to more volunteer gigs than I should, squeezing every second of time with my spouse as possible, and basically keeping lots of plates spinning.

Sound familiar?

Join me (nearly) daily for a moment of Zen with Minkie (the nickname for my daughter), or without her, discovering the little (sometimes hidden!) moments that make parenting a beautiful endeavor.

I write from the context of my ever-evolving roles of mother, daughter, wife --and career woman, and jazz and opera lover... I'm bringing it all to the table in the hope that where I find and share a moment of peace, you will too.

Natural cleaners giveaway!

Ok, for you Crunchy Domestic Goddesses out there, here's a blog post giveaway you'll love. Lily's Garden Herbals are apparently a new natural brand to join the likes of Seventh Generation and the humbler Simple Green (and the even more humble baking soda and vinegar). I haven't tried it out yet, but this blog is giving some away to a lucky reader. It sounds pretty good-- effective, nontoxic (blargh, unlike Aqua Dots or Thomas) and she says it's relatively affordable.

Hallelujah? Maybe. I'll have to try it out. Anyone out there with experience with this stuff?

the leaves have changed- Parents' Moment of Zen

Yesterday I took Paloma into the great outdoors that is our little suburban front yard. She *loved* it. There is no end to the circles she can run, stopping to pick up crunchy leaves or squeeze a couple of rocks or just fall down laughing. I noticed that the leaves have changed from the brilliant hues of early fall to the serious, crackly, dry brown indicating winter. She stood leaning against my legs for a minute, and we just stood there. I thought about things-- an Amy Winehouse song, my dad's oral surgery-- and then I realized I could be thinking about nothing at all, just standing there and observing the moment. And I did that, and it was really a beautiful fall moment-- clean and austere, and a little bit lonely, except for the little girl standing with me.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Never forget

We promised at the end of WWII to "never forget." We wanted to remember the atrocities of which humans are capable. I suppose the hope was that if we remembered the horror, we would be less likely to do it again.

So in keeping with that promise to never forget, I'm copying a message from Human Rights First, from a US Army General against torture.

Dear Anita,

I taught prisoner of war interrogation for 18 years to U.S. Army soldiers. Neither I nor the Army taught torture: it's morally wrong, it endangers our own troops who may be taken prisoner, it undermines our values, and it does not produce reliable information.

I've listened to some of our current leaders say that we should use torture - what they call "enhanced" interrogation techniques - to combat terrorism. Abandoning our principles is never the answer. An expert interrogator needs to be clever, not inhumane.

Today, one year from the presidential election, I am adding my name to the petition to restore America's honor. By signing, you've already told the presidential candidates that you expect them to pledge to put an end to torture and cruel treatment. Now I'm hoping you'll forward this message to at least five people, asking them to put their name next to mine.

In one year, we could be celebrating the election of a leader who understands that torture is un-American. And you could be a big part of the victory!

Join thousands of other Americans for Human Rights and sign Human Rights First's petition to the presidential candidates asking them to commit to ending policies that have led to torture and tarnished the United States:

Click here to put your name with General David R. Irvine's on the petition.

Elect to End Torture 08 is a nonpartisan campaign to make sure that the next President puts an end to policies allowing torture and cruel treatment and adopts a strong national security policy that is consistent with the laws and values of our nation.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Amazing stories put out a call for Halloween-- what's scary about being a mom? Lo and behold, did people ever have stories to share. 172 comments and counting-- people sharing their frustrations, worries, and bewilderment at the state of parenting in the United States today. It's amazing how quickly these stories were gathered-- everyone had something to say about how to wrestle a job's demands and a kid (or elderly parent!) while hoping for supportive family leave legislation.

When says "working to build a family-friendly America," we mean it. It's not empty rhetoric. It's so easy to see how sorely REAL action is needed, how empty words singing the praises of family while cutting back where families need it most (healthcare, family leave, flexible workplaces, affordable daycare) is so staggeringly wrong.

Check out these stories, and please post your own (you can do it anonymously, or you can give permission to MomsRising to use your story-- you may even get a call from a reporter wanting to hear more about your story!).

We're parents and we are not alone-- 82% of American women become moms before age 44. It's time to get organized, and this is how we're going to do it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

three together

It's time for one of those "I'm tired but I'm grateful" posts because, well, I'm so tired right now and it's good to remember why.

I'm tired because I haven't slept a full night through for a few months, because my baby's teething and wants to sleep next to us instead of in her crib.

I'm tired because I'm planning Paloma's first birthday party, which is tomorrow.

I'm tired because I ate too much sugar today, unable to keep my hands off the amazing cupcakes made from the Cheeseboard Collective Cookbook's Deep Dark Chocolate Loaves recipe.

I'm tired trying to do a lot of good work for free for nonprofits, also trying to finish a job application before Monday's deadline.

Put in other words...

My home is filled with the sounds of a growing baby, a baby who's learning to talk and walk and express herself in so many ways. A healthy baby who's thriving. My home is not silent.

My home is filled with joyous memories and anticipation for more good times with dear friends who have been with us so much of the way.

My home is filled with the delicious scents of baked-from-scratch-with-love goods.

And I'm holding out hope that I can do something I enjoy, from home, and actually get paid for it- a good hope to keep one going.


When I say it like that, it changes everything! It reminds me to revel in the delicious beauty of this time in our lives, this precious time when we two became three. Three figuring things out, three to share the ups and downs, three to share life together. Together!

To family! I can stay up. I'm not tired.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

due date anniversary

Today is Paloma's due date anniversary! This time last year, I was waiting for those contractions that couldn't reasonably be called Braxton-Hicks. And I had a feeling I'd be waiting another four days, since I ovulate on Day 18, not Day 14 like those 40 week wheels count on. And I was right!

October 24, 2006, I called in to a radio contest-- and was one person away from winning $1000. But that's ok. :)

Because four days later, I went from having this:

to having her:

and I will always delight in seeing this:

Freezer Paper Stencils=Magic!

I have recently tried my hand at the magic and wonder that is otherwise known as freezer paper stenciling. If you haven't tried it, be warned that the amazing results will have you feeling like a legitimate crafter right away. Even artistic.

And it is oh so easy! (I swear, the Home Shopping Network needs me.)

You can find good instructionals by googling "freezer paper stenciling" and great stencils by our friend google as well (or goodsearch, if you're so inclined).

The basic idea is:

1. find freezer paper at your supermarket (can't be waxed paper; must be paper on one side, waxed on the other)

2. draw your design. Soon you too will be discussing islands and bridges with your stencils.

3. Use an Xacto or some such cutter to cut out your design. (I feel like I'm in that "@!*? in a Box" video from SNL. You have to YouTube that. It is *hilarious.*)

4. Iron it on your shirt.

5. Use fabric paint to fill in your design.

6. Let dry, then carefully peel off the stencil. Voila! Perfection!

My first attempt was with a labor intensive lettered design: "PALOMA." It turned out really well. A friend said it looked silk screened. Here's are two photos of it:

I can't wait to do this all over the place!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vanity Fair, a dance, and the War

In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, James Wolcott writes an article on The Twist that directly follows a heart-droppingly beautiful piece by Christopher Hitchens on Mark Daily, a 23 year old soldier who was killed in Iraq. Hitchens' piece brought tears to my eyes, and I felt somewhat surprised to see such gaiety following.

But Wolcott so gracefully brings the message home, bridging from the boisterous times that birthed The Twist to our current time and space on Earth:

"If we can't Twist again, like we did last millennium, that doesn't mean we should embrace soft internment inside our own bodies. At some point the talon grip of the War on Terror will relent out of pure tension fatigue, and perhaps then new excitements will bubble up through the floorboards, pour through the speakers, and set us momentarily but exaltedly free. Because lockstep is no way to go through life, and we've been under marching orders long enough."

Oh, amen, amen, amen.

day of the dead!

This Sunday, Oakland Museum is having a Dias de los Muertos celebration. I'm thinking of taking Minkie. It sounds like a great way to spend a weekend- cool art, demonstrations and performances. If you've celebrated this, tell me about it!

The sky is shades of gray and I can see a bright orange Japanese maple, a burgundy maple, a yellow maple, a live oak, a persimmon and an apple tree outside my window. Fall has fallen.

I always dread this time of year, but when it comes I always feel glad. It's such a good excuse to curl up and nurse a hot cup of cocoa or tea and feel good about staying in. But at the same time, I love walking and hiking in the rain.

And of course, fall brings football! Minkie's first game was also, sadly, Cal's first loss. But we had fun anyway.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

poison kiss

I am so, so troubled by the reports of independent lab tests revealing LEAD in my favorite of all accessories- lipstick. I know I just blogged this, but I can't help it- I'm blogging it again. I wear this stuff everyday- mostly lip gloss, not a heavily pigmented lipstick, but still-- some sort of lip color daily.

What's an eco-savvy, health-conscious, neurotoxin-avoiding, lipstick-loving girl to do?

Well, I started off at my go-to website for this kind of thing: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. There I found their latest study and a quick FAQ about lead in lipstick.

Honestly, lip color is a lot of fun for me and I'm going to miss it. But ew- letting lead scramble my brains and mess with my neurons isn't worth it. However!!! Lip gloss fans, we must unite!!! I'm going to fill a lip gloss container with pure vitamin E oil. It's glossy, wears well, and leaves my lips utterly soft. It doesn't have a color, true, but it looks great with flushed cheeks and a lightly mascaraed eye. (I know, there could be lead in the cheek color.)

Lip glossers, tell me what's going on in your makeup drawer!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I have this thing about brands. I'm ok with big box brand names if the quality and value are good. But aside from things like cars (we've got a Toyota), I've found pretty consistently that small gem brands are my favorites-- especially when we're talking about food and clothes.

When it comes to food, I mostly prefer knowing farms over brands-- I'm not super into most foods in boxes or cans. But I know I love Full Belly Farms, Twin Girls Farms (best apples besides my parents' tree), Martinez Farms. Good fresh stuff.

And when it comes to clothes, you know I admire Verrieres and Sako and fabulous local clothiers. It's just nice to find real quality instead of picking over stuff on plastic racks under fluorescent lights. Now just to clarify, I'm no snob about the fabulousness of plastic-rack-free shopping. It's just that for me, it's nice to feel like there's a person behind the the object, a crafter or artisan who loves their work.

Which is why the etsy website is such a Danger Zone for me-- small business people, mostly women from what I can tell, selling their handmade wares. I'm warning you-- it's some of the most wonderful stuff you can find on the internets.

Here's my latest small brand find: Tusk!! My old Target wallet was falling apart after five years of use. I saw this beauty at Atmosphere in Boulder, CO. Atmosphere is a really fun boutique, where you can find exquisite little items like the Tusk wallet-- I got the quilted silver-studded one in brick red (shown in olive). After dreaming about it for months and not finding anything comparable for less, I went for it.

It's wonderful! This is a classic-yet-unique-and-chic-and-sexy find. In other words, the Holy Grail of wallets (and most things!). I recommend Tusk highly!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

picky eaters!

Before I got pregnant-- even before I tried to get pregnant-- I knew one thing about my progeny. I was not going to have a picky eater. And if somehow a rotten, ungrateful little parasite managed to be born unto my loins, I wasn't going to support his or her snarky ways.

It's Mama's cooking or nothing!

I felt pretty certain that I wouldn't be one of those parents cooking a separate meal for every family member, letting the littlest, pickiest one dictate what s/he and/or the rest of us would eat.

Guess what? I still feel that way! Ah, consistency, you are my friend.

The New York Times highlighted this issue in one of its top most emailed articles of the day. It talks about the possible genetic link between parents who were picky eaters and their picky kids.

There are parents in this article who rearranged their fabulous European vacations to accommodate their kids' food aversions. Parents who cook those individual meals. Parents who deceived their kids into eating something more than processed cheez foods.

I am not here to blame! No, I'm here to support parents. I'm here to say, stick to your ladles! Hold firm to your salad beliefs. Let no packaged processed semi-edible with a shelf life longer than God take over your kitchen and your kitchen-y beliefs!

The article ends with what I think is the most useful piece of advice: patience. Just keep calmly offering the food that you have prepared for the family dinner. The kid will take it eventually, or the kid won't and will be a bit hungry. Some kids might take their strike too far, in which case offering them some modification is of course just fine. But here's the main rule in our household:

1. Parents are in charge. Be consistent and don't break down just because the kid is screaming or refusing. The kid is allowed to her own opinions and allowed to express them, but she's not allowed to harm herself, and in the end eating crappily is harmful.

2. Parents have the responsibility to help a child expand her horizons and learn something. This is not going to happen on a daily candy bar.

3. Food is FUN, darn it!! Finding the perfect seasonal produce at the farmer's market, preparing the food, enjoying it with all our senses... I mean, this is life at its most delicious. I'm not going to deny my babies that.

Tomorrow I'm having a soup party. It's going to be delicious. I've made three breads, three soups, a potato salad, and cookies and salad are on the way. I hope this is the first of many parties like this. I want Minkie to grow up in a household full of conviviality. Viva la food revolution!!

the nanocamel

Ok, so D and I were talking this evening about work and making money. Basically, he loves his job and he's great at it, but there is no money in it. Folks, tell this to your kids who dream of being a physics professor.

And as for me- I've been in the nonprofit world for ten years-ish. While I've loved the work and the ethic and the people, I've found out a couple of things.

1. People who work at nonprofits can have that corporate hierarchical mindset, even though they're working for a cool cause.

Ok, that was supposed to be a list, but that was my big finding. It was a big disappointment to realize nonprofit people can be tools, too! (I must say that most of them are not tools, and my recent colleagues have been the most professional, most warm and friendly, smartest people I've had the pleasure to meet.)

Oh wait. I guess my other big finding is this: I really want to have more fun in life.

Which leads us to the nanocamel. D and I were talking about that parable where Jesus says it's harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle. D has a nicely nuanced understanding of that parable, which is that Jesus didn't say it was impossible for a rich person to achieve nirvana (ok, get to heaven for you purists). But he implied that it was hard-- that it required hard work. D summed that up with the always-pithy phrase "From those who have much, much will be required." D added that he also thought it implied that poor people don't have to do much to get into heaven.

I liked this interpretation very much. I decided that I am willing to do the work it takes to get my camel through the needle. Perhaps that means developing a nanocamel.

Is this just trying to have my cake and eat it too? Not quite. It means I'm willing to work hard. Especially if the hard work seems like fun. You know, like all those supermodels who are like, "Modeling is Such Hard Work!" (As they sip their umbrella drinks on tropical islands and someone does their hair for them.) Now that's not the work I'm after (or am qualified for) BUT! You get where I'm going with this.

Viva la nanocamel! May we all be so blessed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What's in my lipstick??!

This article in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle should be a must-read for anyone who wears cosmetics or cares about someone who does. The title of the article is "Five Questions for Mark Schapiro," who wrote the book "Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's At Stake for American Power."

The real question for me is, why is it that Europe has so much higher standards than the United States when it comes to regulating toxic chemicals? Why is it that European consumers can get so. much. more information on these things-- and American consumers cannot?

The article mentions the American culture of trusting corporations-- that is, trusting that products from large corporations must be overseen by the government or, at least, must be safe. Because otherwise people would get hurt and corporations would be forced to reformulate or get sued for lots of money. Right?

Well, a few consumers groups like Center for Environmental Health do the work the government should be doing. CEH had been testing products like children's lunchboxes, costume jewelry, candy and toys for lead for the past decade. And CEH has been forcing companies to reformulate.

The trouble with cosmetics is that its such a vast, vast market, and it does not have to reveal ingredients. Now, the skin is a very sensitive and intelligent organ, and I respect my skin. I also sometimes use makeup, and I often use cleansing and moisturizing products. I try to use simple, organic products or stuff straight from the kitchen (oats to scrub, olive oil to moisturize). So, considering how much is absorbed through the skin, well... I try not to use anything on my skin that I wouldn't eat. Because it's getting in my system, one way or another.

It seems the Europeans get this concept, as well as the "knowledge is power" idea. American consumers are still in the dark about what's in our cosmetics, cleansers and moisturizers. And we need to ask the questions if we ever want to find out exactly what those dyes, colors, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and preservatives do in our bodies.

Find out more at

the great balloon chase

Minkie is so great! She will give hugs if you ask her. She toddles most everywhere. She's a busy girl!

Check her out with her balloon, delegating balloon-getting duties to Daddy. Go Minkie!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Barney's in SF!

Barney's, the iconic department store of New York, is coming to San Francisco! And who better to present the fabulousness but Simon Doonan, the department store's creative director. 7x7 magazine did an interview with him and I have to say I'm totally on board.

I mean, this man flatly states,"Say no to ho." And: "Barneys is a great fit with San Francisco. We both love beautiful design, and we both share a dislike for that tarty look-- butt crack jeans, fake tans, hair extensions, skimpy halters, ugly scrotal bags, massively enhanced boobs. Gnarly."


It's time that SF was properly recognized for its unique style. And I don't mean "unique" to be a euphemism for "butt ugly." (I'd say butt ugly if I meant it.) The SF style is endlessly changeable, because it has to be in a city where you might have a wintry, foggy morning; a sunny afternoon; and a cool, breezy evening. Where you might head to the gym, the office and the opera without going home in between. Where the local dive bar serves tapas.

It's great to live in the Bay Area, especially if you're a people watcher, because you get to see how much fun people have with the variable weather and social forecasts. Street style is so much fun around here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's fun to speak up!

I just called my Congressional representative, Jerry McNerney, to tell him how disappointed I am in his vote for the resolution condemning's ad about Gen.Petraeus. I called his Pleasanton and DC offices.

I left a message in Pleasanton. The DC staffer said Congressman McNerney supports the First Amendment (hooray!) but that he found the ad "in poor taste." Um, excuse me? The Congress of the United States of America has time to condemn ads they find "in poor taste"? That is totally unacceptable. There's a war in Iraq, thousands of children without health care in the US (President Bush is planning to veto children's health insurance, by the way), and a million other ACTUAL PROBLEMS to deal with. HELLO?! God. What did we elect these people for? Not this.

If you think this is a waste of time and YOUR taxpayer money, tell your Congressperson so. Here's the info from

They didn't condemn Vice President Cheney when he falsely connected Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.1

They didn't condemn Colin Powell when he lied about WMD to the United Nations.2

They didn't condemn President Bush when he started eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant.3

They didn't condemn President Bush and the Republicans when they attacked Sen. John Kerry's war record.4

They didn't condemn Sen. Saxby Chambliss when he ran ads comparing triple-amputee and war hero Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden.5

They still haven't done enough to slow this dreadful war or protect our troops.6

But a few hours ago, your representative voted in the House to join the Senate in condemning a newspaper ad.7

Enough. Can you call Congressman Jerry McNerney—tell him to stop voting on useless resolutions and force an end to the war?

Congressman Jerry McNerney
Phone: 202-225-1947
District Offices:
Pleasanton: 925-737-0727
Stockton: 209-476-8552

Then, please report your call by clicking here:

Republicans are hoping to use this to destroy us. Some Democrats are so afraid of being attacked that they're joining in a right-wing smear campaign.

Well, they need to know that we're not going to quiet down.

When you call, tell them that we're going to keep giving voice to the majority of Americans who want the war to end. We're going to keep the pressure on every scared Democrat and every pro-war Republican. We're going to demand they stand up—and turn them out of office if they don't. And we will never stand down until we have a majority of Congress with the guts to stand up for what's right.

If it's late where you are and the D.C. office is closed, make sure to call tomorrow.

Thanks for all you do.

–Eli, Ilyse, Daniel, Justin and the Political Action Team
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007


1. "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed," The Washington Post, June 16, 2004

2. "Powell calls pre-Iraq speech a 'blot' on his record," USA Today, September 9, 2005

3. "Judge rebukes wiretap program," MSNBC, August 18, 2006

4. "Lawyer Quits Bush-Cheney Organization," Washington Post, August 26, 2004

5. "Political Veteran," Washington Post, July 3, 2003

6. "Democrats Fall Short in Effort to Shift Course of Iraq War," The New York Times, September 19, 2007

7. "House Condemns's Petraeus Ad," Associated Press, September 26, 2007

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Monday, September 24, 2007

book review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Let me start by saying I'm a foodie. I live in the Bay Area, and cherishing food is part of the culture here. It's not just what's on your plate-- it's everything, including who grew it, who transported it and how, who sells it and why.

There are people out there who will roll their eyes at the notion of a home-cooked meal made with homegrown (or at least, locally grown) food. Not me-- I love, even luxuriate in, that kind of thing. If you do, too, you'll be right at home in the pages of Barbara Kingsolver's ode to the foodie, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

Much like The Omnivore's Dilemma, AVM reveals the sordid underbelly of the American food machine. It's pretty ugly-- or perhaps the better word is tasteless. Agribusiness is first and foremost, business, and as such it's not going to protect the very things consumers value-- taste, quality, healthfulness (that is, the lack of killing substances like pesticides). Sure, these businesses will argue that what consumers really want is consistency (all the apples should look alike- it doesn't matter how mealy they are) and convenience (the tomatoes should last a couple weeks-- it doesn't matter how tasteless they are). They can make these products cheaply and make them cheap for the consumer.

But cheap food doesn't nourish. Or maybe I should say, cheaply made food doesn't nourish. Lots of farmer's market food, homegrown food, and local food is inexpensive, and it tastes like a million bucks. Or better.

Kingsolver writes about the many ways food affects us (everything from our stress levels to our family time to ... well, you name it, food probably affects it). And her family gets into the act-- her daughter Camille includes lovely recipes, and her husband Steve pens wry sidebars detailing in 500 words or less the food politics that shape what we eat.

It's a really worthwhile read. (And let me tell you, I was looking for something worthwhile. I'm still suffering post- Harry Potter depression!)

Friday, September 21, 2007

weekly menu

This week I felt inspired to go a little above and beyond. With my mom there to help me watch Minkie, I was able to be a little more creative with dinner.

That said, these dishes are all incredibly easy! Even if I didn't have help with the baby, they wouldn't have been too hard. And the taste return on the time investment is *unbelievably* rewarding.

M: mixed baby greens salad, whole wheat ravioli (fresh pasta from a package)

T: roasted halibut with braised artichokes and potatoes (one dish wonder- so flavorful! San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market cookbook)

W: curried chicken, sweet potato, coconut soup (incredibly delicious and the chicken is perfectly tender. Pressure Perfect cookbook)

Th: herb roasted cornish game hens with a leek and mushroom wine sauce (deglazing the pan with wine made The Most Delicious scent ever. San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market cookbook)

F: leftovers; homemade chocolate chip cookies

Thursday, September 20, 2007

more fun than C-SPAN!

I actually like C-SPAN. You get the news from DC straight from the source, without the often-useless, analysis-free, opinionated drivel heaped in from cable and network news. It's fun to see our Senators and Representatives in action (when they're actually in session). Since I have a background in environmental health, seeing how the Hill handles (or fails to handle) the toxic toys scandal has been of great interest-- especially since my former colleagues at Center for Environmental Health have been featured, like, everywhere.

But I understand, different strokes for different folks, and some people just don't think C-SPAN is all that and a bag of chips.

For those people, I give you News From the Swamp: Liveblogging the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, covering the House hearings on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and the toxic toys debacle. This blogger has a great sense of humor and you get a very good sense of how things work on the Hill. While you're there, you may want to check out the front page at The Consumerist: Shoppers Bite Back. If you're a consumer, you'll appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MomsRising and Rosie the Riveter

(New Minkie photos in the post below this one!)

We've heard a lot at MomsRising about having Rosie the Riveter as a logo. Most of the comments have been from women of color who feel that Rosie doesn't represent them. One of the most eloquent comments on this has been from Jennifer James, who wrote a well-researched entry on the Black Breastfeeding blog on why she couldn't support MomsRising while Rosie was our logo.

Here's my response. Addressing these things honestly and forthrightly and lovingly can be scary, but sometimes we have to do the scary thing.

"Hi Jennifer! I'm a woman of color on the MomsRising executive team, and I'm so glad you brought this up on your blog. Most of us on the team know that Rosie means different things to different people. You eloquently showed the truth of that in your original blog post.

I'm proud to be part of this team because we're really responsive to member input. We've been hearing about the need to demonstrate more diversity in our materials, and I couldn't agree more. Instead of using an image that means different things to different people, we want to show that we've got a single message-- to build a truly family-friendly America. Not just for some people, but for every single person who considers themselves a caregiver. A diverse group indeed!

One of the deepest experiences we've had regarding race had to do with the petition on Imus we wrote when his comments came out. There was a lot of thoughtful discussion on the team about whether this was within our M-O-T-H-E-R-S platform. I urged MomsRising to take this on because I felt that as a mother, I had to speak out against this - what kind of media do I want my daughter consuming? What messages do I want her hearing, believing? Definitely not the tripe coming from Imus and his ilk. I felt this fit squarely in our T platform (Television We Choose and Other After School Programs).

There was disagreement and respectful (and passionate) discussion. Though there were plenty of people (frankly, probably white) who told us they didn't see why MomsRising was addressing this, I remain grateful that there were and are plenty who see exactly why it's so important for MomsRising to stand up against bigoted comments and stand up not only with people of color, but as people of color.

Diversity is not a peripheral goal- it's integral to the growth and integrity of our organization. I hope that one day very soon, the membership of MomsRising will reflect the vast diversity of mothers/caregivers in the US. How powerful we'll be when we all stand together! Thanks again, Jennifer."

Happy ending-- after Jennifer heard straight from the top (our ED, Kristin, wrote to her and invited her to blog at the MomsRising website), and heard that we're not using Rosie as a logo anymore (after hearing a ton of comments about it), she saw that MomsRising includes her, too. Peace!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Minkie goes beachy!

We just returned from a quick trip to northern Florida (that is to say, southern Alabama) to visit my sister in law, bro in law and their 20 month old. Adventures in traveling, indeed!

Our flight on American Airlines was scheduled for 11 am, September 10. Of course, it was canceled due to weather in Dallas, and we were sent home to wait for our rescheduled flight on that most auspicious of flying days, Sept. 11.

Happily, that turned out to be our only snafu. Other than being sad that we lost a day of vacay, we enjoyed drama-free travel and a relaxing trip. One highlight was when BIL's granddad took us out to dinner at a restaurant called Gators, built on the swampy edge of a river where you could watch-- you guessed it-- alligators. You couldn't tell from the menu, but everything was fried. Everything. The menu might read "flounder," but that meant fried flounder. I had hush puppies for the first time. I also had a Dairy Queen frozen dessert (is it ice cream, truly? Ponder that...) and saw bats at night. It was a true cultural experience.

Here are some photos from the trip. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

my secret power

There are a few moments in elementary school that really stand out in my memory. One bright and shining moment is when my sixth grade teacher called me "goddamned cavalier."

You have to hear this in your head said in a New York accent by a lady in her sixties with hair just like Janet in Three's Company.

What had I done to attract such wrath? Well, to this day I'm still not sure. I know it had something to do with the fact that a measuring tape was missing and that I was searching for it, but perhaps not in quite the frantic manner she thought the missing measuring tape deserved.

I was leaving the classroom to search another room, and as I leaned on the heavy door, she said, "How can you be so goddamned cavalier?"

And feeling completely sanguine, I thought , "What does 'cavalier' mean?" Thus confirming my cavalier-ness (cavalierity?).

True, getting sworn at by an elementary school teacher is quite memorable. But rather than remember this moment with shame or regret, I've decided that this moment revealed that being cavalier is my secret power. I like to think of it as my fabulously low blood pressure, or even better-- as my cool-as-a-cucumber, double-oh-seven, wits-about-me nature in crisis situations. It's been handy to have a personality trait that keeps me from losing my head. True, it also slows the evolutionarily helpful fight or flight response. But hey, I figure in the 21st century when I'm not hunting or being hunted (I think), the low blood pressure might actually be more likely to keep me alive.

Secret powers... good stuff. I'm going to have to keep a list of these for reference so I can refer to them as needed. Especially as Minkie gets older! I can see the cavalierosity coming in handy as the teenage years approach... (ok, about twelve years from now, but it's never too early to be prepared!).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Apple-Gram a Day!

Dear California MomsRising Member,

Apple-Grams!? This year approximately 763,000 CA children are starting school without health care coverage, and the legislature has one week to take action for kids before session ends. Let's send the legislature 763,000 apples with your one-line messages supporting health care for all children stuck right on the apple. Well, maybe not 763,000 apples! That would fill the building, but let's at least send hundreds of Apple-Grams their way and make a bold statement reminding them that the "apples of our eyes" need our help.

SEND YOUR APPLE-GRAM NOW: Imagine baskets full of apples, with each apple bearing a MomsRising member's message supporting health care for all kids. Click below to quickly write your free, one-line message to CA legislators supporting healthcare for all children. MomsRising will then print these messages on stickers and put them on apples to be delivered in baskets as Apple-Grams to legislative leaders next Monday, September 10th.

To send your free Apple-Gram now, just go HERE!

Help children while keeping up our MomsRising tradition of bringing attention to important issues with our inventive approaches!

THE LOWDOWN: The massive gap in our health care system puts these children at risk and significantly limits their potential to learn and grow. Plus, it's just plain wrong. There are several pending health care bills before the legislature that could cover all kids- but, so far, nothing is happening! Citizens need to send a strong message to all legislators that kids matter, and any health care reform should include coverage for all children. Legislators have just one week left in this legislative session to work on health care reform. Join us in urging our leaders not to forget California's kids!

Parents in California are working hard to protect our children's health, and by banding together to send a strong message of support for children's health care we can make a big impact. Next Monday (September 10th) we'll be delivering the Apple-Grams in beautiful baskets to leaders with your messages supporting health care for all children. We'll also be delivering your signatures on our petition to support health care for all children at the same time. Let's remind our leaders that we're doing our part to keep our kids healthy?now it's time for them to do theirs.

YOU CAN HELP - YES YOU! You can be part of creating this powerful visual statement by sending an Apple-Gram now! It's FREE! Personalizing our message will make it even more effective-- so send in YOUR message or dedication and we'll stick your message on an apple.

Your message can be whatever you want: Your hope (Let's cover all kids in 2007!); a dedication to a specific child (Luke, age 9, deserves to grow up healthy); or a word of encouragement (We can do it California!)

*Click HERE to send your free Apple-Gram now!

The Apple-Grams, along with the thousands of petition signatures you've sent in, will remind our legislators that real moms, kids, dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents support health care coverage for all kids. Contributing to these Apple-Gram baskets is a powerful way to help all children in California to get health care coverage, without having to take time off work, get a sitter, or drive to your state capital. Plus, creating something unique and eye-catching is often an extremely effective way to catch the attention of the press, and a key part of forming public opinion and understanding.

JOIN US! -- We need volunteers to assist with delivering the apples baskets and petition signatures to our state leaders on Monday, September 10th at 11am at the State Capitol. We'll be visiting the several legislative offices together as a MomsRising delegation - it will be fun! If you want to sign up to join us, click HERE!

Once you sign up, we'll give you all of the information you need to meet up with us on Monday!

Best -- Ashley, Donna & the MomsRising Team

P.S. DON'T FORGET TO SIGN THE PETITION - If you haven't done so already, please sign our petition calling on our leaders to provide health care coverage for all children. The more messages and petition signatures, the better! Click here to add your name to the petition.

P.P.S. WANT TO HELP DELIVER THE APPLE-GRAMS? - If you would like to help us by making a donation to help us buy the apples, baskets and other equipment needed for this event (every dollar counts!), please click here.

Your donations make the work of MomsRising possible. To donate today on our new, secure website click here.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back to The Moan

Well, we've done it. We moved into my parents' place. ('which shall surely give you plenty of blogger fodder' say my imaginary readers. 'Bwah-hah-hah' say my imaginary foes.) They live in a city whose last syllable is "mon," pronounced "moan," hence the high school nickname The Moan.

It's not the Most Fabulous Thing I've ever done in my life (there are a few top contenders for that title, among them scaling Hospital Hill in Mutare, Zimbabwe to watch the spectacular sunset over Mozambique; celebrating my 21st birthday with 300 international students in Strasbourg, France; attending a gala at the Kennedy Center with great human rights defenders and some movie stars).

In fact, it feels a little shabby. But I also feel a little bit of the California pioneer spirit-- "We do what we must do," she says with her proud chin held high. (You can drag a romantic spirit in the mud, but dammit, you can't kill it. I have read too much Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

I mean, how else is anyone going to become a homeowner in the Bay Area but By Any Means Necessary? Desperate times, desperate measures. Though we're watching the housing market like a pair of half-starved hawks-- the way it lumbers along, we figure there'll be a decent chance for us to buy in the next two years, even in the uber-expensive Bay Area market.

Sigh. I'm having a soup party at the end of the month and am going to invite old friends as well as a few neighbors. Sadly, one neighbor has an atrocious Hummer with a custom paint job of maple leaves meant to look like camo and a license plate that reads: "HUMER[heart]ER." Another neighbor has one giant American flag, three giant SUVs, and a bumper sticker that reads "Bush Cheney 2004," which is totally unforgivable. (Bush 2000 voters might be forgiven for being churlish and naive if they have since seen the light, but 2004? Um, yikes.)

I figure there must be some fun, sane, smart people living here or Jerry McNerney wouldn't have been elected. Right? Right? I'm going to find them. Off to check craigslist groups! Wish us luck!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

because Mamas need a laugh too

Total silliness. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Breastfeeding Mom Denied!

Dear MomsRising member,

Doctors agree that breastmilk is best for infants, but their own licensing board isn't following doctor's orders. Sophie Currier recently learned that when it comes to supporting breastfeeding, many of our leaders--whether they are in the medical establishment (as in Sophie's case), business sector, or elsewhere--still don't "walk the talk." You see, Sophie was denied breast pumping breaks during her nine hour medical licensing exam. She's not alone. Even in this day and age when the medical evidence is clear that breastfeeding is best for infants, women are regularly denied the time and location to pump.

SUPPORT THE BREASTFEEDING PROMOTION ACT! Sign the Statement of Support for breastfeeding moms everywhere now: "Healthcare professionals inform us that breastfeeding is the best possible way to ensure that babies thrive. In turn, we must ensure that breastfeeding mothers are able to breastfeed, and given the time and environment to pump at work or during other professional obligations." Congress and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) need to hear that breastfeeding must be supported for all moms, and that we support the Breastfeeding Promotion Act which is currently before Congress.

*To sign the Statement of Support for breastfeeding moms, just go to:

After you sign the Statement of Support, please forward this to friends and family so they can sign on as well! Your voice can make a difference: When a subsidiary of Delta Airlines kicked a woman off an airplane for breastfeeding, we sent them a petition with more than 20,000 MomsRising signatures, and shortly afterwards the airline apologized and instituted a new training program for their employees.

STAND WITH SOPHIE, JANEE, AND MOTHERS ACROSS THE NATION! Women like Janee McConnell could also use the Breastfeeding Promotion Act. Janee worked in a grocery store that had a health consciousness she admired. She was such a committed employee that she rose to a management job quickly and was called a "rock star" by the other employees. After her third child was born, she tried to pump at work but there was no private place to go other than a dirty, windowless electrical room. When her milk supply dropped she spoke up but store management was unsympathetic. She resigned from her management position and eventually from the store all together.

Frankly, we all lose when we don't support mothers; businesses lose excellent employees; infants lose important nutrients; and women lose needed jobs. No mom should have to choose between keeping her job and feeding her baby and protecting her own health.

SHARE YOUR STORY: Many of us mothers know personally what it's like to juggle breastfeeding babies and work. Some of us have also experienced the pain of engorgement and the risk of mastitis when feeding or pumping doesn't occur every few hours. Stories like this are common. You may even have experienced something similar yourself. *Share your story on our blog at:

All too often women aren't able to breastfeed their babies even though the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us it's one of the most important things we can do for a child's health. Let's send a strong message together that it's time to "walk the talk" for healthy infants and mothers.*Don't forget to sign the Statement of Support to tell the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and Congress that we want breastfeeding to be supported for all moms?and to forward this email to friends so they can sign on too. Just click here to sign on now:
Best -- Anita, Nanette, Kristin, Mary, Joan, Ashley, Katie, and Donna

P.S. THE LOWDOWN ON THE BREASTFEEDING PROMOTION ACT: Representative Carolyn Maloney's Breastfeeding Promotion Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect breastfeeding by new mothers by providing tax credits to employers who provide a place to breastfeed and/or provide breast pumps. This makes it a lot easier for women who want to give their babies breastmilk and keep their jobs. As you may know, 82% of American women become mothers by the time they are forty-four years old, so this issue is critically important to a large portion of our nation. To read the bill, go to:

SOURCES:1. Boston Globe article on Sophie Currier: 2. Data about breastfeeding: See also

-Your donations make the work of MomsRising possible. To donate today on our new, secure website go to:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

You can save SCHIP!

As a member of the MomsRising executive team, I've decided to spread the good word on my blog and post copies of the latest action items. We've been quite successful, having learned a thing or ten from our founders' experiences (Joan Blades co-founded; Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner directed an environmental PAC in WA State). I have learned an enormous amount about how to be politically savvy from them. In just a little over a year, MomsRising has built a strong, active base (100,000+ members and growing daily).

And so I give you our latest outreach-- saving the state children's health insurance program! (I promise, it's exciting. And just below it is my latest Good Life series post, on shelter. I'd love your comments.)

Dear MomsRising Member,

Imagine being told you couldn't take your child to the doctor for a full year. What might happen if your child got strep throat and had to go without medical attention for months and months? This sad scenario will be a reality for many U.S. families if the rules aren't fixed: Under new rules, made by the President, some children who depend on lower-cost health care coverage will have to wait a full year--with no insurance at all--to qualify for help.

This outrageous requirement is part of a slate of changes made to limit the number of children who can benefit from the lower-cost health care coverage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We can't believe that in a country where 1 in 9 children go without any health care coverage at all, there is any thought of more limits. This senseless rules change is especially surprising because SCHIP is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Everyone, it seems, except for the President, sees the value in giving kids healthcare. Let's send a strong message together. TELL CONGRESS THAT KIDS CAN'T WAIT FOR HEALTHCARE BY GOING TO THIS LINK:

When Congress returns from its recess in September, it will take up funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program again. Tell your representatives that they must reverse these new and backward-thinking rules (described below), and fully fund the program.

THE SCOOP ON SCHIP: This federal health care program (one of our favorites!) helps families afford health coverage for their children (and this help is critically important because right now 1 in 9 children are without health care coverage at all!). Here's how it works--it gives funds to the 50 States, who then use the money to create health care coverage programs for kids. Families that don't meet the low-income standards for Medicaid coverage, but still don't make enough to purchase private insurance, can apply for their children to be covered by the state-run plans.

What makes this program so powerful is that it allows states to decide what level of assistance makes sense for their populations--taking into account the state economy, local cost of living, and the total number of uninsured children in their state.

ABOUT THAT 1-YEAR WAIT FOR THE DOCTOR: Sadly, the just released rules undermine a state's ability to administer their program in the best way -- helping the most kids get much needed health coverage. These problematic changes include the following:
* Requiring a 1-year waiting period--with no insurance at all--for some children before they can be covered;* Pushing states to only cover children whose families are at 250% of the federal poverty level, regardless of the cost of living in that state;* Tying children's health coverage to private insurance enrollment rates: if private insurance enrollment is down in a state (for any reason), then the federal government won't cover more kids.

This just plain doesn't make sense-particularly because private insurance enrollment is often tied to a job so there could be a scenario where unemployment would go up, but help for kids' health care would go down!As a part of a nation-wide, bi-partisan effort, we've been working long and hard to re-authorize SCHIP this year. MomsRising members have already sent over 30,000 emailed letters to Congress urging them to fully fund this essential federal program. Now, these new administrative rules threaten to undermine that hard work. Let's tell Congress to stop the madness.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS, DON'T LET THE SCHIP GO DOWN: Forward this email to all your loved ones. Let's make sure that kids can go to the doctor when they're sick, regardless of their families' ability to pay.*Don't forget to email Congress now to tell them all children need health care coverage: Best --Katie, Kristin, Donna, Nanette, Joan, and the MomsRising Team

P.S. Want to know how SCHIP works in your state and see if you might be eligible? Check out this great resource from PBS: P.P.S. BELOW YOU'LL FIND ARTICLES & RESOURCES ABOUT THIS ISSSUE:
- Administration's letter to health officials: - New York Times:;hp%26amp;oref%3Dslogin and;ex%3D1187841600%26amp;en%3Daf37007e15249f06%26amp;ei%3D5087%250A - Seattle PI: PBS: Fox:,4670,ChildrenapossInsurance,00.html
-MomsRising is a bootstrap organization which covers a lot of ground with very few staff. Your donations make the work of MomsRising possible. To donate today on our new, secure website go to:

Friday, August 24, 2007

the good life- SHELTER!

Have you dreamed about what your perfect home would be like? I love daydreaming about this! I sometimes envision the Family Home to be something modest, along the lines of the Von Trapp abode. Living in the Bay Area makes this daydream perhaps somewhat unrealistic. I mean, where would I find a nun. Church of the Perpetual Party (the founders of whom we saw at none other than Party Sushi)? Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence?

My sister proposed that I keep a journal of sorts dedicated to the care and feeding of my imagination's dream home. I decided that for such a grand operation, nothing less than an orange hardcover Clairefontaine notebook would do. (Speaking of the good life, anyone who wants a little bit of affordable luxury in their penning lives must pick up a Clairefontaine notebook.)

I've pasted in the flyer for the sale of an amazing California Bungalow (which included amenities such as a custom bathroom with a heated tile floor). I've made lists of the qualities the home would have on the inside. On the outside. What the neighbors would be like. I've gotten down to the details, pulling everything I know from green design.

We'd have neighbors we love. The public schools would be excellent. There would be redwoods trees in abundance, an ocean view, hardwood floors, plenty of southern exposure, a Sunset-worthy landscape design in front, Sunset-inspired outdoor living principles in back. The house would have been designed by an iconic Bay Area architect (Maybeck, Morgan, Howard?) and I'd take a lot of pleasure in preserving its original architectural details. The kitchen would be very well-appointed. My notebook has details from the brand of oven to the brand of knives. But "elegant" would describe the home in a nutshell. And hanging in my closet would be Verrieres and Sako.

Ok, now I'm veering into other aspects of the good life, but I've included every minute detail in my orange Clairefontaine because at the end of the day, the "shelter" aspect of the good life doesn't just mean a roof. Ideally, it's every expression of home I can think of-- safety, and beauty, and comfort, and family.