Sunday, December 27, 2009

Uncle Tom's Cabin

I just got through reading the book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I know, such a "positive" tale just in time for the holidays. Although there were quite a few "bad happenings" as is to be expected in such a book, the ending was very novelistic. Most of the people, sans Uncle Tom, were tied up in a happy ending for the reader. In the author comments section, Mrs. Stowe talks about how many of the stories presented in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" were based on truth and events the she had witnesses in her life and in knowing escaped slaves. That is a perspective that none of us in the 21st century will ever have. It is horrifying to think of how an entire race of people was once treated en masse in the USA.

I thought of this again today when I was perusing my blog listing and my friend at Upside DownUnder posted a video about detainees from Guantanamo Bay. While maybe it is not mass suppression here in America our prejudices about the quality and trustworthiness of other races is certainly not alleviated. I can see where many of the attitudes prevalent in slave holders still exist today in the general public, especially when talking about persons of Middle Eastern descent.

Also, slavery does still exist. When reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" I was swept away by the expository language and over-riding christian theme of the time. That theme being used to justify slavery and all of its cruelties. When I look at the sex slave traffiking trade I have to ask myself how far we have come and answer "not very." Do I think that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a good read? Well, that depends on why you want to read it. I am a firm believer that history repeats itself and by reading back into history I can see the same actions repeated in today's society. I am only one individual, but as one individual I have to ask myself how I can alter my life and thoughts to create a better history in my own tiny sphere of influence and that is mostly why I read the book. That was one reason, the other being that it is a book commonly used as a reference in many discussions that no one seems to have read. So, if you want to take it on and you can wade through the utter lack of political correctness and high dose of flowery christianity, go for it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Schweddy Balls

Don't forget to have a good LAUGH this season.

Bing Crosby David Bowie Little Drummer Boy

Happy Holidays!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Growing Old Gracefully

As much as I have tried to avoid the bustling crowds this Christmas, I have found myself in crowds on several occasions. Usually when I am being pushed and bumped along in the midst of a calm crowd I just try and go with it. If I happen to have children in tow, I try to hang on to them and have them hang on to me and hope that none of us gets separated. Here in our neck of the woods we have a nightly event called "Snowflake Lane." It takes place on the main thoroughfare that runs through the small city in which I live. My kids love it and each year it has grown in musical variety and characters in costume. First the costumed characters, drummers on stilts, and snow princesses make their rounds through the crowd. Then the bands of drummers come out and take their places on miniature stages to belt out some holiday tunes. The whole event ends with a glorious fake snowfall.

This year, my oldest daughter was quite taken with the costumed Rudolf and she really wanted to have her picture taken with him. When we first saw Rudolf I did not have my camera ready and he was gone before I had a chance to get it out. We had staked a place near the front along the crowd-lined street when she spied Rudlolf again. We quickly darted through the few people behind us to snap a picture, leaving my younger two children in our "spot." This only took a moment, but somehow in this short span of time, the area between my daughter and I and my younger two children had some how filled up with people. I felt the panic of a crowd closing in between myself and my kids, they were near a rather busy street and even though they know how to stay safe, I still wanted to get back to them.

I politely began to edge my way through people. For those of you who don't know me, I will take this time to mention that I enjoy seeing live music. I always wear tennis shoes to shows and I can often get to the front of the floor in a general admission show by moving through the crowd in a manner that would not be considered "polite." So this polite edging was quite a feat for me, I was trying to set a good example. Well, the first somewhat elderly gentleman was having none of that. He wasn't going to move. Fortunately, he was rather large and my daughter and I squeezed by him with some ease. Then there was the woman in front of me, probably in her early sixties, and I said quite politely three times, "excuse me" and she just stood there in front of me refusing to move. We really had no choice, I had to move around her and as I did she exclaimed, "What do you think you are doing!" "Well, uh, I don't know trying to get to my kids," I said with a sarcastic smile. I wanted to say more, but decided to drop it.

This is something that I have noticed of late, women in a certain age group who seem to feel that politeness and public consideration of others is no longer something that they need to do. I have a few theories about why this is so floating around in the old brain pan, but the one that makes the most sense to me is that many women spend too much of their lives giving to others and not enough giving to themselves. By the time they reach late middle age/early old age, they have had it and they are going to look out for number one the rest of you be damned. Maybe other people don't notice this, but I have and I know why, it is because I do not want to be like that. So from this day forth, I am going to practice being polite and I am going to remember to take good care of myself so that I have the emotional bandwidth to carry out this resolution.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Sides of a Similar Coin

Yesterday a friend of mine told me a story that made me feel sad. She knows a large family through her parents and they have a son who is now eleven and quite obviously has Autism. The obviousness of the diagnosis was apparent when he was a toddler. The mother of this boy was encouraged by friends and professionals to seek a diagnosis and help for her son. She declined, passing it off as a language delay and never sought services for this child. He is now eleven and unable to communicate, his behavior is getting increasingly more difficult for the family to control. Now I am told that these parents wish that they had provided their son with the services that he needed when he was younger because now it is too late to get some of those things going. I have trouble understand why parents would not want to help their children be the best that they can be. Here is a boy that could have learned to communicate and have life skills to help him become more independent. The problem is that when these services are started too late, they are that much harder to learn. The chances now of living independently are quire slim for this child. There isn't much hope here because of the parents unwillingness to embrace their child for who he is.

Later that afternoon I went over to pick one of my daughters up from a playdate and was invited in to have a glass of wine. Another mother was also there to pick up her son from a playdate. We were talking and she told me that she had a ten-year-old boy with Autism and that he went to a special school in our area. He has been in this school since he was a toddler and that combined with extra therapy at home has helped him to become verbal and independent in many areas despite his diagnosis. This mother told me that she and her husband decided to ignore the advice of a well-meaning pediatrician who told them that it was just a language delay. They thought it was more and actively worked to get services for their son at an early age. They are now reaping the benefits of this. There is hope here because the parents are willing to accept their child for who he is.

I am not trying to be critical of parents. I am a parent. I am also a specialist who works with children with disabilities. I would like to think that I would be able to be strong and put my pride behind me if I had a child with a physical or cognitive impairment. It takes time. But when people throw you a lifeline early on and encourage diagnostic testing and intervention, why not take it. What would any parent have to lose by trying these options. It seems to me that they have everything to lose by not doing anything.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Suburban Housewife

My kids are a bit older than this, but it is still really funny. Language, Language, Language, just like real rap!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Margot, Dancing Slowly

This is a piece of new writing that I did in the Fall. I just felt like posting some original work today!

Margot could not figure out why she kept coming back here. She took a long sip of her vodka spiked lemonade, knowing that she wasn't supposed to drink, yet doing it anyway. It made her feel grown-up and sneaky. Tonight she wore a short and very tight black mini dress paired with bright red pumps and naked hose. On a larger woman this outfit would of looked slutty, on Margot's small, childlike frame it almost made her look like she was dressing up in her mother's clothes. Only the small, deep lines on her face gave her age away. Margot took another sip of the slightly sweet beverage and wiggled her shoulders in a pathetic attempt to make her size A chest look larger. Margot had put her hair in a conservative upsweep and applied minimal eyeliner and lipstick in an attempt to make her daring outfit seem more innocent. It didn't matter, no one was looking.

The dance floor was full. From her perch in the balcony, Margot saw things like dry humping, hands roaming in clothes, and kisses that were far too sensual to be seen in public light. The Disco Zone was not well lit. The music was pulsing and the lights were blinking. Margot had been coming here every weekend for the last six months. The wait staff recognized her. Jesus always gave her vodka lemonade. Both Janet and Jesus waited on the balcony. They knew that Margot would drink exactly three of these drinks. They remembered from week-to-week and she tipped well.

Sometimes Margot felt the urge to join the pulsating amoeba that was the dance floor. Secretly she had hoped that by coming to the same place often that she would meet someone who would take her down there himself. Margot both wanted and feared such involvement. The last time that she allowed herself to get involved an explanation about the faint scars lining the insides of her wrists was requested. When she gave it, the relationship was gone, couldn't get his pants on fast enough, they weren't even buttoned when he stumbled out the door. Margot smiled to herself and signaled Jesus that she was ready for another round.

Tonight Margot felt different. They didn't know that she went on her unsupervised outings to a bar. They didn't know that she had enough family money to keep an apartment on the side. Dear old doddering Dr. Winnepeg pinned high hopes on Margot's ability to get better. Her fragile childhood and adolescent abuse, the impulse of her family to wipe away these transgressions through gifts and money, Dr. Winnepeg did not label them insurmountable obstacles. He took professional pride in her challenging case history of doing poorly in institutions. This time would be different Dr. Winnepeg told her, this time she would overcome.

She had overcome a lot. The Bulimia for starters, although Margot still could not seem to gain weight. "Hey, look up there, grandma's back!" The group of young men who pointed her out every week smiled maliciously from the dance floor. "Oh just leave the poor old lady alone. She's just a barfly," said the girl, the one with bleached blond hair piled in waves atop her head. They made their way out onto the dance floor. Margot lost them in the dark. She took another sip of her drink and tried not to cry.

The night that she jumped from the balcony, Margot was wearing shimmering silver tights, ankle high black boots, and a deep purple colored Flashdance sweater. Her hair was down and fanned out around her small head when she hit the floor. This was her third attempt and they say that the third time is always a charm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Watching The Wheels - John Lennon

This is how I am trying to respond to the holiday season this year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kneading Bread Dough and Holiday Traditions

When I first started this blog, I promised myself that it wouldn't become a "homemaking blog" although it is difficult for me to avoid homemaking altogether as I have three young children. So consider this a therapy post rather than a homemaking post.

It is that time of year again, the one where we get ready to celebrate Santa Lucia. This is one of the only holiday traditions that our family has carried over from my Swedish ancestors. This celebration includes the making of Lucia buns. Of course I could probably buy something similar to Lucia buns or we could just have jam and toast, but I started making them a few years back and found that I rather enjoyed the process.

Yesterday was a long day. I had a hair appointment and have determined that I just don't have the time to sit around getting my haircut by someone else. Perhaps it is time that I learned to do it myself. This set the whole day behind. We went to see Santa Claus and the line was long. My kids have pretty much started to not believe in Santa anymore, this whole process is more about me taking them to have their picture taken. In the end they had fun, I just wonder how many more years I will be able to drag them out to get their perfect Santa picture. There was a twenty-one-year-old in line ahead of us with her mother. She was giving her mother one last Santa picture, so this gave me hope!

Now back to bread dough! Last night I made up the dough for the Lucia buns and started kneading it. Once I started, I found that I didn't want to stop. My hands were a mess, but the feel of the soft dough, rolling it rhythmically back and forth and pushing it down at each turn was somehow therapeutic for me, I found that I started to actually relax. This got me to thinking about how the pioneer women must have made it through difficult times without support. Maybe kneading bread dough was part of what helped them through a difficult life. Maybe there are some other household tasks that have this same effect, but I haven't found them yet. In the meantime, during this busy holiday season, maybe I will have to find more time to knead.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Anxiety

It is that time of year again. The advent season leading to Christmas. I do like Christmas, generally, I love the warmth and celebration in the air, more festive gatherings in order to spend time with friends. The thing that I don't look forward to much is the gifts. More specifically, the gifts that I need to get for my children. My younger two are still at the age where they like to open a lot of presents and they count their gifts. This brings me to the anxiety that hit me today. It happened when I ordered a gift for one of my children on-line. I had wanted to get this and all gifts for my children at stores this year. When I reflect upon the "why" of this decision, I realized that it had to do with our Christmas in the Northwest last year.

We were pounded by snowstorms. Now I realize that in many areas of the country this is the norm this time of the year. It isn't the norm here. We have hills and lots of them. We also live in a damp climate. When it gets cold and snows and freezes there is ice everywhere. Ice and hills do not make for good driving conditions and as we are so unprepared in this part of the country roads are not plowed. They are not sanded or salted either because of our close proximity to Lake Washington. Suffice it to say, all of our on-line gifts, most were for the kids, did not make it in time for Christmas. I found myself going through the birthday gift bin, those pre-bought sale gifts that I sometimes keep on hand for birthday parties and those were their Santa gifts, not things that they had asked for, some of those didn't come until 2-3 weeks after Christmas. This is a lesson in delayed gratification if there ever was one.

Flashback to Christmas 2006. We suffered from a huge windstorm in this area right before Christmas. Our grid was out of power for seven days. Grids surrounding us were restored in 2-3 days. It took the energy company quite a bit more time to get around to removing the huge Douglas Fir tree laying on the power lines that supplied our grid. It was difficult to drive a block from our house and see everyone else's lights on and know that their house temperature must certainly be above the 45 degrees on our home register. The next Christmas, 2007, I felt stress when I took out the Christmas decorations because of flashbacks to that very challenging Christmas season.

Weather around this time of year has increased my anxiety level at the holidays. I feel myself going into prepared mode, I feel a need to have everything organized and done early in case there is foul weather to mess up holiday plans. I think it will be easier when my kids are older and I don't have to worry so much about the timeliness of the gifts. When they are older they will also have more resilience regarding changes in holiday routine and tradition. In many ways I don't look forward to my children getting older, holiday time is not one of them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Christmas The Musical On Broadway

We went and saw this production today in Seattle. Three years ago I took my oldest daughter to see it. Today all of my kids went. It was as great as ever-lots of talent in the show.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

What can I say about "Fantastic Mr. Fox?" It was, well, Fantastic! Quaint and artisitc animation and finally a childrens movie that my kids and I don't have to see in 3D! Mr. Roald Dahl you are (were) a genius of a writer for both children and adults. The world sorely needs more talent like yours! The sound track was pretty great as well, kind of matched the movie.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tired of Writer's Block

Lately, I have been perusing different blogs. I need to do this every once in a while so that I feel like I am in touch with the blogging community and what is going on out there. I have come across a number of writer's blogs and I have to say that I am quite jealous. Damn you people who have time to write eloquent and interesting prose and dialogue. I am possessed of severe writer's block. Maybe writer's block isn't the correct term. I actually have things swimming around in my head that I would love to write about. In November I took a short-course on novel writing and came away inspired and filled with new ideas about how to approach the arduous task of putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Integrating writing into my life remains a challenge. Frankly I am not very disciplined. To be a successful writer, to start at least, usually requires one to make adjustments to their schedule such as getting up earlier or staying up later. I am good at neither. I am particularly not good at getting up earlier. I can always stay up later, especially if I am drinking red wine and in the company of good conversation. This is different, however, from staying up later to actually get some work done! The best gift that I could have for myself this holiday season is the gift of setting aside regular and consistent hours to write. This is currently my only goal for the new year. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Goodbyes" are the HARDEST THING!!

Today we said "goodbye" to our dear friends the Ady's as they make their way back to Meg's place of birth, the land of Oz. During the past several years, our families have gotten to know each other well. We were a good match, the parents and children. There would always be more good times to come. Now Meg is gone and I can't quite believe it. I have been in denial for so long, it feels like waking up from a bad dream. Ultimately, I sense that this move will be good for their family, not so good for ours. It is hard to be the ones left behind. Meg and I crossed over into many groups in each of our lives and that makes the leaving that much harder. She says that there is a string attaching us and this morning, while saying goodbye, she told me that the string was short and that it will get longer as she moves farther away, but it won't break. I hope it won't break. I will do everything in my power to keep it from breaking, but right now everything is just sad and I am sick at heart and just trying to keep moving through this day and the next, hoping to feel better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Letter to Governor Huckabee

Dear Governor Huckabee,

What in the world were you thinking when you pardoned that fiend of a man to ruthlessly roam the streets of Washington state. I guess that you must have been thankful that he was leaving Arkansas after your generous gift. How could you be so inept as to have not noticed the psychopathic nature of this particular criminal (I refuse to honor him by using his name, you know who I am talking about).

In all of the time he has spent in prison, I find it difficult to believe that his hatred of police was hidden. Certainly there were written records attesting to this passionate hate. They must have been "swept under the rug" so that the devil could make his bargain. I find it hard to believe that there weren't other criminals more deserving. I am not a psychiatrist, but as a member of the general public, I could probably recognize a psychopath as deeply disturbed as this individual without much difficulty.

Our streets are clean of him. He was shot by law enforcement officers today. I will have you know that the generous freedom that you gave him led to the massacre of four police officers, all of whom left families behind that will now be missing a parent. It makes me wonder how you ever got elected or if this man had a rich relative or friend somewhere ready to make a bribe. I may be a Northwesterner, but I have travelled enough to know that Southerners are typically insulted when out-of-towners make fun of their intelligence. You have no excuse, I am an out-of-towner and I am insulting yours.

I hope that you think long and hard about the foolish decision that you made to pardon this man and set him free to commit heinous crimes. You deserve to lose sleep over this decision and pay attention next time, some criminals are beyond rehabilitation.


A Concernc Citizen in Washington