Sunday, November 14, 2010

Some Parents are Unbelievable

Today I went to a parent meeting at church regarding the middle school program. Since the beginning of school, the middle schoolers have alternated between sitting in the church service and meeting together as a group during the morning service that we traditionally attend. This is my daughter's first year in the middle school program and I have been quite satisfied with this change. For years now I have walked by the room where the middle schoolers meet and have seen nothing but chaos, loud music, and young leaders. Quite frankly, it didn't look like they were doing much of anything but mucking about. I came to the meeting today, newbie that I am, hopeful that other parents may be embracing this change as much as me and I couldn't have been more wrong.

They are up in arms, they want the old format back, well not everyone, but the few who talked...and talked...and talked again sure did. My view had been wrong they said, the kids did get some teaching the way that the group ran before. It came out slowly, over the course of the meeting that the Sunday mornings did not offer much in the way of teaching. Most of the parents claimed to have brought their children back for other kinds of meetings during the week. That doesn't really work for us, so I was glad to have much of the teaching concentrated on Sunday mornings and more of the fun during the week.

I must say that the minister in charge of this age group was extraordinarily professional and has a solid vision. Some of the more challenging parents referred to this as a "theory that doesn't apply well in practice." That depends, in my opinion, on what kind of parent you are. The resounding theme from the vocal group was, "my child doesn't want to come to church anymore." My thought is that they just shouldn't have a choice. Now don't get me wrong, I think that my children can have choices in many things, such as whether they want to bring or buy their lunch, who they invite to their birthday party, what they chose to wear on a given day as long as it is appropriate, but if your family value is that you go to church and you go to church together, then to church they should go. Sometimes church isn't fun. School often isn't fun, yet these parents do not give their children a choice about going or not going.

Maybe your family value is that each member decides for themselves whether they will go to church or not. It seemed that most of the parents present at the meeting today hold the value that they should all go to church together, but that they have middle schoolers who don't want to go because it isn't fun. This seems to be a child rearing method that I missed out on, even though these parents have children roughly the same age as mine, my husband and I just don't believe in letting the kids run the show. Good habits start at home. Every family should have traditions and values that all members participate in regardless of the desire factor, this sets the groundwork for children to learn delayed gratification and the long term value of sticking with something. Shame on these parents for using church as yet another entertainment medium.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections on Great Women in History

Last week I had the most wonderful opportunity to attend a Martha Graham Dance Company production. I have heard Martha Graham's name bandied about over the years, but had never seen the dancers or learned much about Martha Graham. While billed as a modern dance company, the troupe is extremely fluid and the dancing dynamic (not jerky and stilted as I had expectd). There is almost a story with each movement. I learned more about Martha Graham too, because this production was documentary, using film and voice, as well as performance based. Martha Graham is quite simply the founder of modern dance. I am sure that I was not the only one in the audience thinking that the late, great Michael Jackson most certainly must have spent time studying her patterns of movement and putting his own spin on them.

Her contemporary, Coco Channel is another female great. She can be credited with such inventions as the business suit for women, the popularity of pearls, and the little black dress. Like Martha, Coco Channel took the road less travelled for women of her time and forever changed the fashion industry and the way that women dress. Over the years, I have often heard comments to the effect of "women don't invent anything," they do, you just have to look and pay attention. The next time that you see a dancer use a contract and expand movement or glance at a woman dressed gracefully in a black dress and pearls, think of the mothers of invention.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kids aren't Getting enough Sleep and Morning People Rule the World

Articles peppering me with the theme of kids not getting enough sleep are coming at me from all directions as of late. There is a consensus across the country that kids, especially adolescents, need more snooze time. Anyone who has been a teenager or lived in close proximity to one already knows this sans all of the research and hype. We know it to be true, but continue to schedule school start times that are more suitable for senior citizens than youth citizens. In work, in school, and in fun it seems like you just can't get away from it, morning people rule

I am not a morning person. In fact, I am probably as difficult to rouse now as I ever was when I was a teenager. My father is in his 70s and he is still a night owl with a strong aversion to mornings. It is likely that I am not going to change anytime soon no matter how desperately I would like to re-set my biological clock in order to fit in and be popular with those pesky early risers.

When I see all of this information regarding adolescents and sleep I know that for some of them at least, the inability to retire early and rise early will not change. So, should they just struggle through this stage of their lives tired as hell and try to get used to it, or should the world change and try and give them a break before real life after high school sets in?

Frankly, I can see both sides. Being forced to rise early certainly did not change me into an early riser. As an adult it was the job where I had to arrive at 7:00am each day that I used the most sick days. I didn't come home from that job and get things done either, I came home and slept. Sometimes I tried to go to bed early, nothing helped, I felt sick until my schedule changed. It is the same thing with trying to get up early to exercise, my muscles are so stiff and sore that I need to stretch for at least an hour and ingest a large cup of caffeine before hitting the gym.

I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that confirmed night owls such as myself certainly don't get much respect. If I over sleep it is usually because I was up late the night before doing something productive and not due to laziness for which I have sometimes been accused. I might add that going to bed earlier does not help, I still resist getting up. The sad fact is that my children are the same way. My husband is a night owl like me, so how could we expect anything different from our offspring?

More than likely my children will grow up to encounter the same problems that I have, the world is run by morning people who try and make us night owls feel lazy and unproductive because we are not giddy with the sunrise. When I think about adolescents and those of us who prefer the evening to the early morning hours, I think that what the world needs is less discrimination and more tolerance for all sleep types . The world is more colorful and interesting when we don't all arise at the break of day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

On Working Full-Time....

This is the first full-time job that I have had in eleven years and it is feeling pretty good thus far, midway through my first week. The thing that I am most thankful for is not to be running my children to and from activities after school each day. For some time, these car expeditions have not been the most productive and positive interactions with my children. Last night, because someone else was doing the schlepping, I was actually able to come home and prepare a very decent dinner. The job itself is shaping up, there is so much to learn and it has been a while since I have felt this ignorant. The family dynamics are changing a bit for the better and I hope that this continues. My husband is having to take up some of the duties that I used to be responsible for such as children's doctors appointments and taking children to and fro if our child minder is not available. Do I miss being away from home during the day? Not that much. It is often hard for me to get things done at home because I get caught up in cleaning or doing extra chores. Now I can bring things to do, like writing, in my down times at work and actually I have more time available to work on things that are important to me. Extra chores and housework can be saved for later in the day when I am no longer exerting my best energy to get them done. I will have to check in with my progress now and then. As I do enjoy this new work very much, I hope that it continues to be a good experience in regards to personal development and family dynamics. The sun is out, I may have to go for a walk.

Friday, October 1, 2010

To Think That It Happened In This Country...


This is the story of our Mothers and Grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)
They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)
They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cell mate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)
When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

(Berthe Arnold, Colorado A&M/CSU graduate)
My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco/Bingo night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

So, refresh MY memory. Some women won't vote this year because - Why, exactly?

We have carpool duties?
We have to get to work?
Our vote doesn't matter?
It's raining?
I'm so busy...I've got so much on my plate!
Shame on again what these women went through for you! Was all that suffering for nothing?

And for you men out there do not forget why this country was founded. The right to vote was hard fought for. So please do not take it for granted, get out and vote.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kids do Say the Damndest Things!

The other day my eight-year-old twin girls were outside playing with the neighbor boy and his friend from school who had come over for the afternoon. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. At one point a girl came in to tell me that one of the boys was a prisoner and he had been "locked up" in their playhouse. It all sounded like so much fun, to be a kid out playing on a sunny day after school.

Fast forward to this morning. The child who was visiting the neighbor boy is the son of our school PTA president. She is a really great woman and I happened to see her while waiting in line to get my coffee. And, while trying to hold back laughter, she told me the following story about the playdate the other day.

She had picked her son up from his friend's house and she asked him what he had done. He replied, "We played with A and F (my daughters) with handcuffs." At this point his mother wanted to laugh aloud and her son mistook her moment of silence as some sort of judgement on his statement regarding their play. He immediately stated, "It was O.K., they brought the handcuffs." Still trying to hold back the giggles, his mother nodded her head to let him know that she was listening. "Really mom, they handcuffed the boys first and then we handcuffed them and we didn't do anything that they didn't want. Besides the handcuffs didn't even lock, I could have gotten out of them anytime if I had wanted to."

The handcuffs in question were found in a park by my husband and kids and "yes" they are play handcuffs and the children were playing a game of catch the bad guy, but the adult themed nuances really are quite funny.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Food that we Eat

I feel a bit of a need to explain the new addition of seasonal foods to the headline of my blog. It would be lovely if I did by nature eat naturally, but I do not and thus do not always feed my family as naturally as I would like either. Rather I love the idea of eating foods that are in season and becoming more in touch with the eating process in general. Last summer when my mom was visiting for a weekend, I put this theory into practice for a complete meal. I know that was a long time ago and what have I done since? Truthfully not as much as I would like, but I do remember that meal. It was in season, prepared in our home kitchen, and utterly divine. We had been out enjoying a brilliantly sunny day and stopped off at a local outdoor market in one of the neighborhoods in Seattle. There we purchased hormone free meat, a variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits, and paired everything with a local wine. The meal was fresh and vibrant. The downside is how long it took to prepare and that is the biggest obstacle to my natural and seasonal cooking dreams, my lack of time! Someday I hope to repeat this meal. The new addition to my blog header is to remind me how rewarding good, fresh shopping and cooking can be and to try and put these ambitions into practice whenever I can.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Goodbye Summer?

Today is cloudy and cool. That was fine by me. Lately it has been hot. I had to be inside today. Of course, I had to be inside on the hot days also. I wonder if this means a farewell to summer. Maybe it is only temporary. It is challenging to predict the weather here. Mostly it tends to get hot after school starts. For us that will be on Monday, August 30th. It seems early. Definitely earlier than last year. Much earlier than the year before when our school district was on strike. I have mixed feelings about the start of school. No more sleeping in on weekdays. Not like we sleep in on that many of them. However, a lazy weekday will be unheard of once school begins. I will very likely be working full-time in the near future. The start of school will then mean less time at home for me. Activities start and the kids go here and there and everywhere. I am trying to keep up on my writing project. My friend that I am doing it with/for is counting on me. I like the project. It has been hard to fit it in during the summer. The school year has more structure. Will is be easier then? That remains to be seen? The weather is cooler...the leaves are not yet changing...I saw a strange sight today, I was driving in an older neighborhood in the city and all of the leaves from last Fall were still all over the sidewalks. It was an eerie sight, almost like the seeing a ghost of Falls past. I bet that we will still see sunny weather. I bet that the kids will start the school year in shorts. I bet that I will get organized, come this Fall.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Radio by, Myself (1988)

I was searching through some old papers and found this one, written for Creative Writing 323 with Dr. Burell, 1988. I miss that professor, Dr. Burell, he was the real deal as far as English/Writing professors are concerned, sophisticated grey beard, neatly trimmed, moustache, bow tie and all, this is one of my favorite stories that I wrote for that class in the Fall of 1988:

I only vaguely remember the first time I saw the radio. It was secured with duct tape on the dashboard of my Grandpa's old red Chevy truck. It was the truck he used to take fishing. The front hood was rusting from the salt air. We were on our way back down to the beach house, my mom, brothers, and the dog were behind Grandpa and I in our old family station wagon.

At the beach house I remember the radio, perched on a low counter in the kitchen. Grandpa used to listen to local talk shows early in the morning. He would smoke his cigarettes and drink his coffee in the dusky peacefulness of the simple kitchen.

When he was manager of Sprouse Reitz, he would stay at our house off and on. He would bring the radio. I remember the times he would hide it from me. I would run all through the house, looking through cupboards and closets. When I had a friend over, the hunt was twice as fun. We would laugh, he would tickle me and I would scream. Mom or Dad always ended our fun.

Time came to pass and Grandpa and Grandma moved up close to us. Grandpa retired and I was fast growing up. The radio he brought with him. He would still listen in the mornings. Though he was officially retired, Grandpa still worked at Payless. He made deliveries and did janitorial work. The radio went with him in the delivery truck. The old red Chevy had been sold.

It was one Christmas a new radio came to replace the old. Someone, I do not remember who, gave him a big AM/FM with a clock too. He listened to that and the old Nobility was tucked away.

On Saturday his memorial service was held. On top of my parents' refrigerator, there it sat. My mother came up to me, "Your father thought that you might like it," she said. I tried to hold back the tears. He had been ready to go, he was tired of this world. The Nobility now sits in my home, a knob is missing, it is dirty, and does not match the decor. But with it comes those beautiful memories of how Grandpa was and those alone are mine to treasure.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Job??

It is still hard for me to believe, but I am actually applying for a new job. This is really big for me, the first being that I haven't officially applied for a job in over a decade. My last two positions were obtained when two different friends of mine who work in management in my field asked me if I was interested in job positions that they had open at the time. Looking back, I am really quite thankful that my last two jobs were so easy to obtain, especially the first one as I was a new mother to a two-year-old and infant twins. My brain was no where near the level that it should have been to actually interview for employment.

Another reason that this is a big step for me, is that this is a full-time position. I have been working part-time and very part-time or not at all since the birth of my children. Going back to work full-time would be a huge change for me. I know that I am ready for it and can make it work if the position is right for me.

Lastly, this is huge because this is the kind of job that I really want. I was going to apply for this kind of job sometime in the future, when everything was right and it was the perfect time to do so i.e., meaning that I wouldn't get rejected. Because this is probably the only kind of job that I would leave my current position in order to take, I am filled with anxiety about not getting it. Of course, even though I am qualified I am sure that there are a number of other people who will be applying who are qualified as well. I guess that the important thing is for me to get my name out there and have my resume on file. If this doesn't work out, hopefully something in the future will.

All in all, this would be a dream move for me. I don't want to talk about it much more or I am afraid that I will jinx my chances. Here's to a lot of prayer and keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Listening Ear

Yesterday I went to a professional conference about supervision. It was interesting in that many of the concepts and tools presented were quite elementary in nature and also things that I thought that I knew and maybe even thought that I was using. The speaker had a way of presenting these simplistic concepts in a way that made them seem new to me. Being a good listener is hard, it takes work, it takes practice, and sometimes one might even need to be taught how to listen.

When I was a pre-adolescent I remember my first experiences with someone who truly listened. It was the wife of the pastor of the church that I attended. Last week I visited that church for the first time in probably fifteen years and she just happened to be there. Her husband has long since passed away and she is quite elderly, but far from frail. The church has grown significantly since her tenure there, but way back when it was also considered to be a large church. She still listens. She clutched my hand and focused her eyes right on me although surrounded by a number of other people who also wanted a bit of her attention. I am not even sure if she really remembered who I was, but she still made me feel like I mattered. After she was done with me, she graciously turned to the next expectant person, and when it was time for her to catch her ride back to the assisted living facility, her exit was graceful and well-timed.

I know from talking to other people throughout the years that I am not the only person who feels this way in her presence. She had that gift when she was younger, the wife of a man pastoring a large church with her children still young enough to be at home. She has always been the best listener that I have ever met. Now I am not being critical of my friends, many of them are good and some are even excellent listeners. But sitting in that seminar yesterday made me think back to this woman because she had mastered the art of making people feel like they mattered in more of a professional sense. As I work in an area where people are sometimes in vulnerable positions, I have more than once wished for this gift. Not that it wouldn't hurt for me to listen better in my personal life as well.

So now begins the work and practice of making myself a better listener in general even when I might not want to listen. Hmmm...I probably should try and do that at work. At home? I guess that I will just have to take it one step at a time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aches and Pains

Yesterday I had a freak accident. I was reaching with my right arm to hoist my rather heavy computer/writing bag from the driver's side to the passenger side of my car and with this action came the most significant pain in my scapula that I had ever felt. Seriously, this little movement handicapped me, I couldn't even breathe.

The kids were loaded in the car and I was taking them to camp at the church across the street. During this two minute drive I realized that I wouldn't be able to "tough it out" or "work through this pain" and I was going to have to call work for which I was already running quite late. I dropped the kids off and sat in the parking lot calling work in a barely audible breathy voice. It was just too much to explain the freakishness of this whole thing. As I sat I couldn't get comfortable in any position. I occurred to me that I probably wouldn't even be able to make the short drive across the street to home. I rang my husband fifteen times from my cell. I knew that he was home sleeping, how could he not hear a constantly ringing phone?

As I became increasingly more uncomfortable and sweaty from my labored breathing and the intensifying heat of the day, I had another realization, that I would need to drive myself home. I parked in front of our house and laid on the horn long and loud. My elderly neighbor later told me that she new that I was in distress and thought that surely my husband would have come out to get me, but no, the "log" snoozed on. I crawled, walked out of the car and pushed the doorbell long and hard and that finally got his attention.

The excuse? He didn't hear the phone, I guess that it wasn't ringing in the bedroom and he thought that all of that loud horn-honking was for the kids to get them out of the house to get going. Once I stumbled into the house, he became helpful. Out of guilt? Probably. Instead of spending the day writing and getting other things done, I spent the day going to the doctor and massage therapy so that I could move again.

The curative process worked and I am much better today, only a minor shoulder pain that I hope will go away soon. A weird, wacky day to be sure, not the kind of thing that I would like to experience again ever.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Award? Who Me?

Thanks Kristine at "Light and Shadow" for passing on a "Versatile Blogger" award to me. I have been off-line as well and little bright spots like awards from friends make me want to get back on. Thanks for the new blog recommendations as well.

Summary of July

I haven't been to my blog space in so long, I almost don't recognize it. Maybe it is that I needed a break, or maybe I have just not felt like writing much for myself this summer. I am writing for someone else, but that is different, my creativity in regards to writing what I want and when I want to write it has been somewhat sapped as of late.

July has been a month of travel. Nothing fancy, just trips to the mountains and coast. I have done major amounts of reading and spent equally major sums of money at the bookstore. Lately I have been doing a better job of using the public library. It is just that there is so much out there to read and some of it I want to read right away and not deal with the waiting. July has also been a month for friends and I have enjoyed going out with people and seeing some friends that I haven't seen for a long while. The other thing about July is that it is finally summer here and the weather is hot and I have no complaints.

I think that my break is done and I am ready to blog again. It is odd, but I find that I attend better and actually get more accomplished when I take that time to write. It is a bit like therapy for me. What is it about us humans that always seems to make us want to avoid doing what is best for us?

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Getting Kicked Out...Part 2

After further reflection on this disturbing issue, did I mention that I tend to be obsessive? I have decided that I have a theory regarding why I was kicked out of the Psychedelic Furs show, I shouldn't be too upset though as I did get to see the whole show albeit from afar.

Here is my best theory thus far. We, meaning my immediate family and all of the grandparents, had spent the day downtown watching a long ballet performance in which my oldest daughter was involved. Afterwards we all went out for a two hour Italian dinner that was truly yummy. My husband had brought a change of clothes to head over to the show, I had not. We made a twenty minute stop at Nordstrom Rack and I grabbed jeans and a shirt so that I didn't have to wear the nice dress that I had spent the day in. Considering the time and money being spent I couldn't very well purchase new shoes and a new purse. Consequently I was stuck carrying my daytime purse into the show. I didn't want to remove only what I needed and leave the rest in the car because of the area that we were parked in. So my purse was cumbersome. I like to attend shows in Converse tennis shoes. Suffice it to say, for this show I had nicer shoes on with open toes, not great considering the venue. I had also been drinking water, probably too much water and alcohol and I had to use the restroom a lot.

My theory is that with my big purse and frequent trips to the bathroom I somehow looked suspicious. The security people probably just wanted me out so that I would stop doing whatever it was I was doing. If they had pursued any suspicions with me they would have had to call the police and then things get more messy and public and that is why I think that they wanted me out and wouldn't tell me why. Maybe they started to realize that they were wrong, but it was too late to go back. That is my best theory so far and one that I feel comfortable with, so maybe I can stop obsessing for now.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Getting Kicked Out....

Last night I went to see the Psychedelic Furs with my husband and a small group of friends. It was a great show and the band really sounds no different than they did in their heyday in the 1980's. Everything went fine until I got kicked out of the venue. I would love to know what I did to get kicked out, but I don't, and it looks like I probably never will and this annoys me greatly because I am obsessive and want to know the reason behind the injustice. Did I have too much to drink? Yes. But, I was done drinking and planning to meet my husband up near the stage in order to get a better view of the band.

Before meeting him, I had a quick stop-off to the bathroom. I was in the process of washing my hands in the bathroom sink when a female employee asked me to step out with her and I bewilderingly obliged. It looked like we were headed to the door and I began to feel a bit panicked and in my panic I stopped on the stairs to ask why we were going outside. At this point I saw a friend of mine from our group and frantically waved her over. She came and two male bouncers told her that I needed to get off of the stairs and that they had told me to get off of the stairs and number of times and I wouldn't. "Huh?" I was only on the stairs because I had been asked to leave the bathroom, without time to dry my hands I might add, and I seriously wanted to know what was going on. As the bouncers were threatening to "carry me out" I went out with my friend and she said that she would go and find my husband.

Now I am out on the street in front of the venue. Fortunately I could still hear the music and even see the band. The bouncer than proceeds to tell me that I need to leave and that he will call a cab for me. Again, "Huh? What the hell!" I have a designated driver, my husband, and I tell him that my friend is in the process of trying to locate him. By the time he comes I am seriously angry and belligerent. The bouncer then tells my husband that he won't answer any of my questions because I am being belligerent. I told myself that I would not swear at the bouncer and would not make any physical or verbal threats and I did not. The bouncer didn't want me there, but I had done nothing wrong and I was planning to "watch" the rest of the show come hell or high water. As I was not threatening in any way it would have had to be the bouncer who needed to make to first move and quite frankly I don't think that would look too great.

My husband went back inside for a bit and then came out to stand on the sidewalk with me which was nice, at least I had company. The bouncer remained quite upset that I wouldn't leave and kept barking things at me like "step away from the door" even though it was an exit, I wasn't in front of it, and no one was leaving. It seemeded as though these paper doll power plays on the part of the bouncer were misguided attempts to goad me into reacting. Whatever, by then I had lost interest and just decided to take what I could get from this evening gone south.

The venue was the Sodo Showbox in Seattle near the Mariners Stadium. I think that the bouncers must have been bored that evening. There were a number of them milling about on the sidewalk and no other member of the public was outside, not even smokers, except for me. Maybe they were lacking in excitement. I would still love to know why I was singled out though and why I was approached in the bathroom, that really boggles my mind. All in all a really bizarre evening and not the kind that I hope to repeat anytime soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stealing Time

June has been my month for stealing time, for myself that is. I have purposely said 'no' to most things not already on my calendar unless it was something really, really desirable like going to see the Sex and the City 2 movie at 10:00pm last night. That may sound frivolous, but Sex and the City has always been a frivolous indulgence of mine. I got addicted to the series re-runs soon after the birth of my twins, frankly I needed to get lost in a reality that wasn't mine. Reviews aside, there were definitely some aspects of this second movie that I liked better than the first one, namely that the characters in version two were all at a place that I could relate to either presently or at some time in the not-so-distant past.

In addition, June has also been the month for some get-up-and-go in the writing department. I would love dearly to share my recent writings on my blog, but I am currently helping a friend piece together a memoir about her crazy life this last year and the information is a wee bit too personal to throw out to the public at this point. Just today I thought of two writing exercises that would help me blow some more creativity into this project, now if I can just accomplish one of those, maybe I will post it.

Exercise is going well. I am on a new program and trying to quit snacking and eating things that shouldn't go into my mouth. Cutting down on alcohol consumption and getting more sleep (baring last night's adventure) have also been high on my list of "to dos" as part of this summer kick-off.

School is out. This means that mom's taxi service will be taking a break and maybe we can even spend some afternoons at home! How blessed is that proposition! I have some vacation time coming up and we are planning to go on a ramble with not clear destination in mind. Frankly I am tired of planning my life and managing schedules for everyone else in my household. It will be fun, at least that is what I keep telling myself.

The best thing of all-I finally completed all of the yard work that I had set out to do this spring. Now maybe, just maybe if the weather quits with this rain with sun breaks the weeds won't come back.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wisdom from Maya Angelou...Again

I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they are gone from you life.

I've learned that "making a living" is not the same thing as "making a life."

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back..."

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back..."

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Voices

The other night parents at my children's elementary school were treated to the annual talent show. The talent show has become something of legend in our school community. No act is turned away, as long as they get their permission form in on time, acts must be performed within the time limits of 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds, and best of all, no lip sync is allowed! My kids have been jumping in to perform dances, skits, class songs, etc. for several years now. Out of the 60 something acts presented, we can always be sure that at least 3 of them will present with some actual talent. The rest is all about getting up there and having the courage to perform on stage in front of your classmates and their parents.

This year, there was a surprise at the end of the talent show in the form of a new vocalist, Lucy Horton. A video clip was shown of Lucy singing at the school talent show 11 years ago when she was in first grade. After the clip, she came out and treated the audience to a performance of one of the singles on her new CD. Lucy graduates from high school this year. I don't know what her post-high school plans are, but I really like her voice, and what a great thing for the future generation to aspire to!

Check her out at

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's the birthday of Allen Ginsberg, (books by this author) born Irwin Allen Ginsberg in Newark, New Jersey (1926). His parents were leftists, coming out of the 1920s New York Jewish counterculture. He grew up in Paterson, where his father Louis was a high school English teacher and also a poet, who encouraged his son to read and write poetry. His mother, Naomi, was a Communist and a nudist. Ginsberg said of his parents: "They were old-fashioned delicatessen philosophers. My father would go around the house either reciting Emily Dickinson and Longfellow under his breath or attacking T.S. Eliot for ruining poetry with his 'obscurantism.' My mother made up bedtime stories that all went something like: 'The good king rode forth from his castle, saw the suffering workers and healed them.' I grew suspicious of both sides.'' But Naomi also had some severe mental health problems. She was hospitalized on and off with what was probably paranoid schizophrenia.

In high school, his home life was difficult, as he tried to deal with his mother's strange episodes and with his own growing awareness that he was gay. But he loved poetry, especially Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe. He got a scholarship from the Young Men's Hebrew Association of Paterson to attend Columbia University in New York, where he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Boroughs, and Neal Cassady. Ginsberg got kicked out of Columbia for a year for drawing an obscene picture and writing obscene phrases in the dust on his dorm room window, to annoy the cleaning lady — he thought that she was being anti-Semitic and not cleaning his room.

During that year, Ginsberg read constantly, locking himself up in his apartment and not seeing any of his friends. He was upset by the hatred and anti-Semitism he perceived in the world, and he was at odds with what to do with himself. He had strange bouts of euphoria where he saw God and heard William Blake speaking to him. Finally, he got himself together, finished school, and took in his old friend Herbert Huncke, who was involved in all sorts of criminal activity. He stored stolen goods and lots of illegal drugs at their apartment, and was eventually arrested. Ginsberg too was arrested but pleaded psychological disability, so instead of going to jail he went to a psychiatric institution for eight months.

After Ginsberg left the hospital, he introduced himself to William Carlos Williams, a fellow New Jersey poet, who became his mentor. He worked at an advertising agency on Madison Avenue, but he couldn't stand the corporate world, so in 1954 he left for San Francisco with a letter of introduction to Kenneth Rexroth, written by Williams. He threw himself into writing, and in October of 1955 he read his new poem, "Howl," at the Six Gallery Reading — the poem that begins with the lines: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, / angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, / who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, / who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated."

And suddenly, Allen Ginsberg was famous.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

®sponsorThe Poetry FoundationNational broadcasts of The Writer's Almanac are supported by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine for over 90 years.The Writer's Almanac is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Woman Work by, Maya Angelou

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry

I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.
Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.
Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.

Maya Angelou

Monday, May 31, 2010

Deep Thoughts on this, The Last Day of May

May has been quite a month. Here I sit on the last day of it, the end of a long holiday weekend to boot, recovering from illness. Although this has been a holiday weekend, the weather has been quite rainy. I remember camping in relatively fair weather at this time last year, I am glad that we didn't make similar plans for this year as we would have been rained-sicked out.

In reviewing my month, I must admit that my time spent writing has been almost non-existent. I have wanted to write, I just haven't quite figured out how to piece bouts of writing into a schedule that has me running here, there, and everywhere. That will change in June, I am keeping my fingers crossed!

On the upside, I have started the hiking season early. A huge thanks and much love to Megs, her much welcome visit from Oz helped to launch me into a series of early albeit short hikes. Hopefully the weather will clear and there is the promise of the upcoming summer for longer hiking adventures.

During May and despite the rather exhausting schedule of my three offspring, I have managed to read three books, "East of the Sun" by Julia Gregson, "The Sorrows of an American" by Siri Hustvedt, and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by, Stieg Larsson. I have also managed to see a few films and get regularly intoxicated with close friends. June needs to be a more serious month in terms of gym attendance, although part of me thinks that must have been how I acquired this nasty bug.

Another May is gone. I am not a big lover of Spring, Fall is my preferred season, but May is just so beautiful with the flowers and blossoms and sometimes warmer weather. June around these parts seems to always start out rainy, it might be a good time to head out of state once the kids are done with school. I should probably get started with planning that, but first I have to rest and get 100% of my sapped energy back.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Praise of a Civic Minded Chef

Earlier today I had planned to post a rant. If I had blogged in the morning, my post would have been negative and critical. As the day went on, I decided that I didn't want to be negative and critical. May has been an extraordinarily busy month, thus the lack of posts, and this praise has been floating around in the old brain pan for a while now. The praise is in honor of local chef, Tom Douglas and his latest plans to enhance the city of Seattle.

Pike Place Market is a staple tourist attraction in Seattle. Most tourists make at least one trip to the market. Now that the Lusty Lady has closed it's doors, the market area is lacking in smut, but what it lacks for in the porn department, it makes up for in homelessness and panhandling in Victor Steinbruck Park. As people finish or begin (depending on which end you start) their tour of the market, they are treated to an informal "tent city" as the front drop for an otherwise beautiful view of Puget Sound. If they are really lucky, they will be approached and asked if they have "any spare change."

Those of us native to this city have somewhat gotten used to the homeless camp that is Victor Steinbrueck Park, but Tom Douglas has plans to change all of this. He wants to offer up Salmon Nights at $12.00 per plate with the proceeds going to hire additional security for the park. Now all that he has to do is convince the Seattle City Council and naysayers like Tim Harris, Executive Director of a newspaper sold by homeless on the streets of Seattle called "Real Change." Mr. Harris seems to like the status quo. While "Real Change" is a great plan, it would be nice to see some of the proceeds in action now and then. Mr. Harris seems to also think that Chef Douglas' proposal would somehow be unfair to the Native American homeless who frequent the park, huh? Why? Because they are serving salmon?

In short, Chef Douglas is a doer and I support his efforts. I am hoping that the Seattle City Council sees the genius in this proposal and gives a go to the permit. It is time for a change, real change at Seattle's main attraction.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We are the Immigrant Land

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flam
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

By, Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883

These famous words gave new meaning to the statue gift presented to the United States by France . This sonnet was hardly noticed during Lazarus' life and was found after he death in a small portfolio of poems. The poem in it's entirety was engraved over the Statue of Liberty's main entrance in 1945. These lines, "Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." emitted a new ideal for the United States, this being the freedom to come here to this land and create a new life without religious and ethnic persecution.

Today many people are vehemently opposed to any immigration to this country. While I am not supporting illegal immigration, I believe that in order to oppose immigration entirely, one is also opposing one of the foundations that our country was built upon.

It seems that those that argue most against immigration are the very same people who consider themselves to be patriotic. How can this be? The message embraced as a foundation of this country is to welcome immigrants and give them a portal to freedom and new life. Nowhere in our history has the message ever read that one must speak fluent English prior to immigration, or be white-skinned, or from the "right" part of the world...and so on.

The Statue of Liberty is considered worldwide to be a beacon of welcome, leading immigrants to success and happiness in America. To not embrace this on some level vastly changes the message that our country has been sending to the rest of the world for over a century.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who wants Jeri Ringseth?,,,Nobody.

The Seattle Times has been doing some articles on the state of healthcare. Two recent articles have focused on the plight of patient, Jeri Ringseth. I didn't read the first article, only glanced at the picture under the headline. The picture today was larger and more detailed. When I picked up the paper from our porch this morning, read the headline, and looked at the picture I told my husband that I could already tell him three things about this patient 1) She is mentally ill, 2) She is more physically disabled than she looks, and 3) Her husband somehow enables this condition. Those are the three reasons that she has been in a hospital for 189 days and rejected by over a dozen nursing facilities in the area. Technically nursing facilities cannot legally reject patients based on their lack of ability to pay. Jeri Ringseth is a medicaid patient. But, they can get out of that legality by saying that they are not able to meet the needs of the patient. I agree, they are not. I don't think that the rejection of Jeri Ringseth is based solely on her inability to pay. Of course, staying in the hospital and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt in medical expenses that will be passed on to those who are insured is not cost effective either.

I read the article, and the three things that I predicted were indeed accurate except for the part about the husband, which was hinted at but not fully disclosed. After working in skilled nursing facilities for more years than I care to admit, I have seen this plight many times before. Jeri Ringseth is mentally ill and has the cognitive ability of a third grader. She is a poster child for one of my biggest complaints regarding our present healthcare system and the one proposed by our current president. There are not facilities for those challenged by mental and physical disabilities.

Mental health has always been a "sweep it under the rug" issue. A decade ago our then President Bill Clinton made the decision that institutions were by and large a "bad" thing and many state institutions were shut down thus releasing countless mentally ill patients onto the streets where they continue to live homeless and unmedicated. The plight of those like Jeri Ringseth who also have physical disabilities is even more tragic. In light of these current placement problems, state run institutions don't look like such a bad thing.

Jeri Ringseth wanted to be out of the hospital by her birthday. Today is her birthday and she is still there. Recently, due to digestive problems, a feeding tube was placed which ironically might make finding a nursing home that will accept her easier. Due to her severe diabetes and subsequent loss of both legs, the feeding tube will ensure that the nursing facility doesn't have to monitor what she eats. This may sound lazy on the part of the nursing facility, but it is a very real issue. Jeri Ringseth suffers from severe diabetes, she has lost both legs because of this condition. I am not a doctor, but based on my own experience I have never seen a diabetic who monitored their diet and blood sugar levels lose limbs. This puts her in the category of someone who more than likely is unable to monitor herself.

I will wait for the next installment of the Jeri Ringseth story. Will she be placed in a skilled nursing facility? Will she remain in the hospital? or Will she go back home to live with her spouse (highly unlikely given the circumstances)?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mother's Little Helper

I just got through watching a very disturbing news clip from ABC. It was a part of a 20/20 focus story on mothers and drinking. While the episode was designed, using face-to-face interviews, to bring this secret habit to light, I found the interview tactics to be appalling. The woman conducting the interview phrased almost every question posed to a recently recovering alcoholic mother in terms of "Did you realize that you were putting your child in danger?" Although that question was only asked directly once during the ten-minute clip that I watched, every other question contained subtexts of this message. What the hell! Of course the mother knew in her heart that she was putting her child in danger. Here we go again, it seems like every issue that is supposed to focus on women is turned inside out in order to display her failures as a caregiver. Quite obviously this poor woman was struggling with leaving a high profile job in order to be a stay-at-home mom. For many women the transition to staying at home comes naturally and easily, for others it can be devasting and the subsequent guilt that they feel for not enjoying it can be overwhelming. So here is this mother admitting on national television that she drove her daughter while drinking and the interviewer asks "So you drove your daughter when you had been drinking, weren't you aware that you were putting her in danger?" I had to hand it to this mother who, after a long pause, said, "The answer to that is kind of obvious don't you think."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Transformation of Mind by, Myself

I was going through some notebooks the other night, when I actually took pen to paper and wrote in notebooks prior to getting this wonderful technological invention called a netbook and decided that it was time again for me to post an attempt at poetry. This was from 2008 at a time when I was trying to teach myself how to write poetry in a more structured fashion. Monica, where are your sonnets?

I am
...a quick study
...a fast read
...a slow screw

Take care of me
Like a china cup
That shatters in
too tight a grasp

I am
...a lapdog
...a panther
...a badger

Baring my teeth
to protect the innocent
I don't fear death
I don't live life

I am
...a cold demon
...a loud prowler
...a silent protestor

When shadows fall
My doom shatters
in the mist

I used to care so much,
it made my eyes burn

Now I sit, chalice in hand
watching the rain wash
the boards beneath
my pink painted toes

I am

@KMJ 2008

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

We All Have "Our Things"

The idea for this post came from a recent e-mail discussion that I had with my dear friend Meg. We all have these "things" that if they were to happen our lives would be so much better. For some the thing would be to get married, if they could only find a spouse how much better their life would be! Others may be longing for things like a thinner body, home ownership, a child, or a college degree. It doesn't really matter what the thing is, whether it is big or small, with most of us it is the longing for a thing that would make our lives complete. I often find myself thinking that if I had only published a book my life would somehow be more complete. When I was younger I used to have this discussion with friends, we would talk about our young adulthood and how we were working towards college degrees then graduate degrees and then we would find jobs and maybe get married, buy a house, have some kids, and then what...well the "then what" stage is the stage that I am in now and I find that the biggest difficulty of "then what" is choosing what to do rather than having it planned for me based on my time in life.

The things tend to be more challenging than the stages. Often we do get the things that we long for to make our lives complete and when we get them, they are nothing like we expected. This is especially true for things that aren't really things like marriage and children. In the case of actual things, the getting of them usually doesn't offer completeness. More often than not, the getting of them results in the desire to have something better. A starter home is great to own, but won't it be great when we can move to a different neighborhood or have this much more square footage. If one is jobless, having money to live may be the desired, and necessary, thing. When the joblessness is left behind and money is coming in, there is always the temptation to want more, to earn more, and to collect more. The money to live is no longer enough and the thing is transformed.

It doesn't really matter what the things are. We all have them. They change. They grow. If we let them they consume us, our minds and our conversations. It is a challenge to be happy where you are at and know that, for whatever reason, you are meant to be in this particular place at this particular time. It takes knowing yourself and learning how to be content, maybe there are things that can make us more fulfilled and more happy, the problem is learning to know just what those are.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Words of Wisdom

A fanatic can't change their mind and won't change the subject.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Golf Swing Rules for Women

Next time that I go golfing, I am going to try very hard to remember this little poem. I don't know the origin, my friend Julie passed it on to me and it sounds, based on my experience, like good advice.

1) Brush the grass
2) Lower your ass
3) Shoulder to chin
4) Pussy to pin

If I am able to accomplish all four rules, especially the last one, and smack the ball over 200 yards I will be very happy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Here's to Great Friends!

When I take the timeto stop and reflect on what wonderful friends I have, I can't help but feel overwhelmed with good furtune. The other night a friend of mine in my neighborhood threw an awesome party. It was so awesome in fact that her recently laid off and moved back home twenty-three year old son had the date circled on his calendar as a date when he would be spending the night at his sister's apartment, away from his version of hell, a party thrown by his mother for her friends! We ate food prepared by a local hobby chef, drank Bazooka cocktails, we danced and later in the evening the theme song became "I am not a Whore" by LMFAO. After this fun filled evening, which ran far too late for a "school night," I began my self reflection on my fortunate friendships, not just in my neighborhood, but in places throughout the world. If there is one gift that I hope to pass onto my children, it is that ability to choose great friends and keep them close, no matter how far the distance. Here's to great friendships!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writers who Write in Their Time

It was on this day in 1939 that John Steinbeck published "The Grapes of Wrath." The novel tells the story of three generations of the Joad family, who lose their farm in Oklahoma and set off across the country for the paradise of California, only to encounter extreme poverty and corrupt corporations trying to make a profit off them. He wrote the novel at an incredible rate — about two thousands words a day — in a tiny outhouse that had just enough room for a bed, a desk, a gun rack, and a bookshelf. He finished it in about five months. When he was done, he wasn't very satisfied with it: He wrote in his journal, "It's just a run-of-the-mill book, and the awful thing is that it is absolutely the best I can do." And he warned his publisher that it wouldn't be very popular.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in the Swing of Things

I am by no means an expert golfer. But I do like the sport, the walking, the smell of the fresh grass, being out in the sun...of course springtime in the Northwest is hardly a sunny time, being out in the showers is more like it. I haven't golfed much since having kids. It is a rather time consuming activity. Ages ago I golfed in a women's golf league, my parents live off of the second hole of a country club, I come from a family of golfers. In the last decade I have had to pick and choose free time activities and golfing just hasn't been one of them. I have decided to dust off the old clubs and give it a go again because I want to and because I have found a couple of other friends who are also interested in getting back into golfing. The great thing...there is a pretty great course less than 15 minutes from my house and they offer kids lessons at a reasonable rate, this may become a family activity after all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Panama Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Today I toured the Panama Hotel, the hotel that is featured in the book "On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet." The hotel owner, since 1985, gave us the personal touch. She is kind of like a walking history book and has procured an amazing amount of artifacts about the Japanese internment on the West Coast, many of which she shared today. The Panama Hotel is still in operation. It boasts a tea room/cafe, 101 rooms with bathrooms and showers down the hall, a basement in which many of the trunks left by Japanese families during the interment still reside, and best of all the ONLY fully intact old-style Japanese bath house in Northern America. The bath house was the best part. It has not been renovated or updated in any way and was fully functioning until 1963. Apparently, following internment, many Japanese families moved out of the city and relocated to homes with land. The small block near the Panama Hotel that housed over 8,000 Japanese before the war was changed forever. With bathrooms in their own homes, they no longer needed to come to the public bath house. If you ever come to Seattle for a visit and have an inkling for times gone by, The Panama Hotel would be a great place to spend a night or two.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Keeping a Happy Outlook

The kids have been on spring break this week and I have actually had some time to read the paper. Often reading the paper can be a real downer for me, it always seems that most of the news is so negative. I have decided to focus on the positive this week and here are a few positive things that I have learned while reading the news:

1) Over 7,000 acres along the Hoh River in the Olympic Rain Forest have been preserved as wilderness, a place where the trees will be allowed to grow "huge," much like other areas in the rain forest that haven't been logged. This will ensure a local wilderness and waterway for future generations.
2) A crusty ex-serviceman and ex-child crimes detective legally adopted a former victim. The child is now 19 years of age and is blind, quadriplegic, and severely brain-damaged from abuse sustained at the hands of his mother's boyfriend when he was a toddler. This family-less detective was planning to use his retirement funds to travel. He had re-connected with this boy as a teenager, saw how he never got better, forged a bond with him, and decided to legally become his parent instead of travelling the globe alone.
3) A cop went undercover, posing as a pedophile father of two daughters ages 11 and 13. He developed an on-line relationship with the pedophile he was investigating and managed to secure enough evidence to put this guy away for life. People like to say that the Internet is the new playground for pedophiles and I think that is true. It is a real joy to see it working against them.

Tucked in between the real big stories are always those little events, a child promoting a charity, people lost to one another reconnecting, a new service invented by someone creative. If I really try to be less of a cynic, the positive news is out there, it just sometimes seems to get lost in all of the badness of the world.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

I just finished reading, "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout. This is probably a book that I would have had by my bedside for months without reading it if it had not been chosen for book club this month. Olive is an large, opinionated, and unsentimental woman whose presence is woven in and around the lives of the people in her small town of Crosby, Maine. At times I identified with Olive. I can be as unsentimental and opinionated as she. Towards the end of the book, I began to identify less with Olive and more with her grown son, Christopher. Olive started to take the form of a someone or another that I may have known at some point in my life. I believe that we have all known an Olive Kitteridge at one time or another. Certain themes are constant, illness, death, suicide, loving and loveless marriages, people living lives without ever saying what they really mean. This is the stuff of daily living, life stripped of excess. Olive faces this life in a frank and non-questioning way, bad things happen, if you don't think so, then where have you been?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Frances Farmer

If I think back I might have heard her name once or twice, Frances Farmer that is. But I don't think that I have ever seen any movies of hers. At least none of them sound familiar. She was born in Seattle and lived from 1913-1970. Last night I watched a biography of her life filmed in 1982 and entitled simply, "Frances." A gifted actress and gifted in self-expression she was definitely on the Hollywood scene long before her time. I found myself really wishing that she had been an actress now, the things that she could have accomplished! Although that pesky mental illness that followed her about and caused her to be institutionalized more than once might have interfered. I find myself doubting the mental illness part. By today's standards Frances Farmer may have been considered "eccentric." Nothing that she did would have been any more shocking than the celebrity headlines that we are bombarded with everyday, in fact in comparison, Frances Farmer's escapades were really rather mild. I may be watching some more old movies in the very near future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taking on Big Problems

I want to thank fellow blogger Snowflake for her latest post on how no one has the market cornered on problems. I will be the first to admit that it takes me a while to actually talk about my problems unless they are relatively minor and have to do with some day-to-day complaint. Usually my husband is an easy target, especially when he is acting like my supposedly non-existent fourth child, but so I digress. This last year has been a challenging one in our community and 2010, in many ways, does not seem to be off to a better start for some. In and amidst all of these goings on, we somehow manage to stay on course. Nothing big has plagued our family, thank God and I really have more than my share to be thankful for. It does not mean that I do not have problems. Just because they aren't big doesn't mean that they aren't there. I think that it is easy in the midst of big problems to talk about them with people that you might feel are not experiencing this depth of problem themselves. Gee, I hope that made sense. Probably this is a good idea since talking about them with someone who has the similar depth of problems may lead to wallowing and one upmanship and could just get downright uncomfortable.

This last year has taught me much about myself and how I handle and react to problems and stress in the lives of others. Often I can be a very good listener and I hope an understanding one, because I have learned how to take care of me. If I forget what I need I can quickly feel overburdened. I used to think that I could actually help people solve their problems and help them find a plan. In this last year, many of the problems that I have faced with friends have been so monumentally big and so impossible to solve that I have learned that one doesn't always need a plan. In fact, a plan might often not be forthcoming for months or even years in some cases.

If there is one thing that I want to be remembered for at the end of my life it is that I was a good friend. Sometimes I realize that I am not and no one ever is, there are limitations. I can listen, I can support, I don't need to internalize everything, I can take a breather and still be a good friend. This is the best that I can offer and in the end, most of the time, it is probably enough.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feeling Grown Up

Although I am chronologically an adult, often I feel like an older adolescent or very young adult at heart. When I look in the mirror I realize that this is not true. Sometimes after pausing to look at myself closely, I have to ask myself the inevitable, self-examining question that I am sure most adults ask of themselves at least once in a lifetime, "What have I done with my life?'

Today I did a very grown up thing and bought a ticket to a rather large fundraising luncheon to take place here in my small home city next month. The organization, PACE, is raising funds to build a large performing arts center here where I live. Initially I decided to purchase a ticket and go because a friend of mine is hosting a table and invited me.

Then I had another one of those moments in the mirror and realized that maybe I should find out more about this organization and see if I might want to get involved. It turns out that I could really get behind this organization. When I was younger, I always thought that I would be more of a hands-on person, doing the labor with the people so to speak. Now I am thinking that maybe I might be a bit more interested in getting involved from the fundraising end and getting experience in a more adult role. some point I might actually even join a board.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Warm Fuzzies

"How to Train your Dragon" is a great movie, especially for kids. I will be the first to admit that I am not what you would call a "warm, fuzzy" person, but this movie left me feeling that way. The messages about peace and understanding over war and fighting were terrifically presented in this feature, great messages for kids and adults to see over and over again. The hero of the story, "Hiccup," does not fit in with his viking heritage. The vikings are at war with the dragons and Hiccup can't seem to fight them. When presented with an easy opportunity to kill a dragon, he finds that he is unable to do that either. Through his unique relationship with an injured dragon, Hiccup comes to learn more about dragons and understand them. He realizes that they are not the monsters that his people have depicted for generations. Through a series of daring events, Hiccup is able to help the vikings understand the dragons so that the two sides can live in harmony together. Not a bad way to spend an early Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's Wrong with those Lyrics?

Actually my daughter didn't ask that (What's wrong with those lyrics?) when we had the discussion tonight about how pretty much none of Lady GaGa's song lyrics are appropriate for a school talent show or for anyone under about high school age for that matter. Like most children in elementary school, my daughter has been exposed to some of Lady GaGa's less obvious tunes, minus that little diddy about the sick beat and riding on a disco stick of course. Part of the reason she has heard some of the music is that it has been played for her in the homes of other children. She has, thankfully, missed the inappropriate message in "Let's Dance." You know the "hidden" message about being drunk out of one's mind and barely able to stumble around the dance floor. It is too bad that the song is about drunkenness and dance floor sex because the beat is incredible and really does make you want to dance. I told her that I was really sorry that "Let's Dance" is about being drunk and "Paparazzi" is about a stalker and neither would probably pass muster with the school as talent show dance material. She is beginning to think that my idea of sticking with "old tunes" from the 70's (like she did last year) may not be such a bad idea after all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Oh Sting Why?

Why would a beautiful man like Sting ever do this to himself? Grow the abundant facial hair I mean. He looks like a lumberjack! I know that he had this "look" when marketing his new Christmas CD last December, I do so hope that it is gone by now!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Changes, Here to Stay?

Obama has done it. He has signed national healthcare reform into action, now he can claim to have done something big and significant as part of his presidency. I was concerned that I wouldn't like the reform at all. My family is spoiled in that we have a great insurance plan and I don't want it tampered with in any way. I realize that I am in the minority of Americans in this regard. Much of the reform will actually be helpful to my job. Especially the part that won't let insurance companies deny coverage for a pre-existing condition in children. I am very disappointed that there isn't more reform in regards to mental health care which is in a perfectly deplorable state in this country. Having navigated the ins and outs of mental health coverage, or lack thereof, with a friend of mine trying to get services for her mentally ill husband, I know more about the need for reform in this area because I have seen the paucity of it first hand.

I must say that I am not overly thrilled with the notion of people being penalized for not having health insurance and I am wondering if health care providers will be required to provide services for those on less than premium plans. As far as I can tell, this new bill makes no provision for what health care providers are required to provide and not provide. Whether we like it or not, health care is a for profit industry and if the government plan does not provide good monetary returns, there are undoubtedly many health care providers who will be unwilling to provide for those with such coverage. Molina and DSHS are good examples of that now. As far as I know, the private rehabilitation clinic that I work in is the only one in this vicinity to provide care for Molina patients. Even at that, we don't take on too many. At a 33% reimbursement for services, most private companies can't afford to.

The other concern that I have is the cut back in medicare payments to hospitals, home health agencies, and skilled nursing facilities. In skilled nursing facilities especially, it is quite challenging to find quality help that stays employed with the facility for any length of time. Reducing medicare payments to hospitals may result in more "drive through" care for the elderly. While it is true that we need to reduce costs and spending, it is also true that the elderly get sick more than the rest of the population and often require the most in terms of health care. Any cut backs in this area concern me because the aged and infirm are some of the most vulnerable of our population.

Although this may be a good start, in some ways, for a full-system overhaul, it still leaves many loop holes and, I think, opportunities for health care providers to mismanage and short change care in an effort to make the bottom line. Some of my biggest complaints with our current system are that health insurance companies are often in charge of medical decisions and these decisions are made only in terms of cost, the job of insurance companies at present seems to be avoiding payment for services, CEO's and managers in the insurance system are, in my opinion, overpaid when compared to those providing direct health care, COBRA payments following loss of employment are astronomically ridiculous, and too many middle class workers cannot afford or qualify to receive benefits. Additionally, with the new healthcare legislation, I see the Cadillac taxation policy on higher end insurance plans having a negative effect on union employees who desperately need good plans. There is also the potential issue of employers providing better and better benefits in lieu of salary increases.

Representatives across the country are already revved up to fight the new legislation based on constitutional concerns. If one part of the new legislation were to change or be removed, the entire plan will topple so it is kind of a house of cards at the moment. Meanwhile I will be waiting to see if this landmark legislation does anything to improve the morals of the insurance industry, if that happens, I won't be disappointed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three by Dove and One by Quijada

My eldest daughter and I went to the ballet last night. We had great seats. She takes ballet and I thought it time for her to see something more cutting edge than "The Sleeping Beauty," "Swan Lake," or "The Nutcracker." Those are all good ballets to watch when done well, but it was time to mix it up so to speak.

Ulysses Dove was an independent choreographer who combined modern dance and ballet flawlessly in my opinion. The first Dove vignette entitled "Vespers" was based on memories of Dove's grandmother and the women that she worshipped with in a small wooden building. The dance was modern and balletic at the same time and involved quite a bit of balancing and coordinated dance movements using wooden chairs as props.

The next dance entitled "Red Angels" used only four dancers, usually on-stage two at a time, and clothed in red leotards. Dove chose red for this number because for him "...the angels of the senses are red." Thrilling and athletic with a bit of the demon vs. angel thrown in. My only complaint, it was too short.

"Serious Pleasures" was the last dance performed. It was described in the program as "a merciless battle between spirit and flesh." I should add, layers of sexuality that thankfully went over the head of my ten-year-old. This may sound odd, but the set and dance moves were part underground gay bar and S&M dungeon, but in a pleasing and aesthetic way although I know that must be very difficult to imagine.
Victor Quijada is an artistic director and choreographer mostly of hip hop and to see hip hop and ballet combined was quite an original experience. The stage was "stripped." All of the staging curtains were up, exposing behind stage lights, ladders, scaffolding and such and the dancers wore street clothes. The stage began to curtain towards the end of the dance and was fully curtained when the dancers moved off of the stage.

I am one of those people who is really moved by certain types of artistic expression. Often I am moved by different kinds of dance. Generally I am moved in some way or another by artistic expression in any form as long as it is well-done.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This Movie Broke My Heart...

I watched this movie the other night courtesy of Netflix instant play, thanks Maryam and Suzanne for the recommendation. This was one of the darkest and most gritty movies that I have ever seen. It takes place in Romania in 1987 and it is about abortion. In 1987 I was dimly aware of the social/political situation in Romania only because I was in college at the time and read the lesser known newspapers. Several things stood out in this film, the first being the relationship between these two young women and what the one went through for her friend who was seeking the abortion. The other was the lack of privacy in all levels of society experienced by these people. From what I have read, Romania was experiencing a severe housing shortage at the time, medical care was limited, abortion was illegal and women were being forced to carry every pregnancy to term and encouraged by a government that told them it would provide for their children. Times, in short, were quite desperate.

I have become increasingly disillusioned by American cinema. Independent and foreign films are the ones that I have been drawn to as of late. When I heard that Avitar was in the running for best pictures, it put the cherry on the sundae of my disillusionment. Now, for special effects, Avitar is probably great. But best picture should involve a riveting and hopefully somewhat original story line. The best picture should be one that makes the audience think. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is not a must see for everyone, but it certainly puts a face on the often over-politicized and depersonalized issue of abortion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Famous Kisses

Several days ago I was reading about these two kissing pictures. Unfortunately, I can't remember where, maybe in a book. The narrator was lamenting the fact that so many young women seemed to take the Doisneau print with them when going away to college. He questioned why this kissing print and not some other kissing photo like the one taken in Times Square on V-J day in 1945. Well I felt sort of caught out so to speak as I own a Doisneau print, quite a nicely done copy I might add, and I got it...guess when...that's right, when I went away to college. Frankly, I just happen to think that the Doisneau print is one of the most romantic photos I have ever seen, a lot of women young and old seem to feel this way. The romantic impact of the photo was not diminished even after I found out that the photo was supposedly staged. Even if it was staged, it still looks spontaneous and the couple had to have summoned up some passion for the pose because that is what comes through to the viewer. Unlike the V-J day photo, both parties actually look like they want to be in a lip lock. That has always bothered me about the V-J day photo, the solider who I am sure is relieved to finally be home, has a death grip on the nurse, her back is stiffly arched and she looks almost as if she would pull away if she could. I know that this photo is supposed to represent joy, victory, and hope for the future, it is a well done photo caught at the perfect moment and I can see relief and hope in it. I guess that, when it comes to kissing, I think more in terms of romance, passion, and dreams. I see that in the Doisneau. That is why I took it to college with me and that is why it hangs on my wall to this day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time Management-Take it in a New Direction

Last night I read an interesting article in the latest edition of the Utne Reader. It was a discussion regarding attention and focus. New research suggests that we don't have a finite amount of attention, each of us can tap into more attention and focus by directing ourselves to attend and focus on the right things. In regards to the right things, we are all different I have been thinking about this lately and realize that I direct more focus and attention than I would like to things that aren't really important to me such as, picking up my house, doing laundry, running never ending errands, and driving.

As a mother it is essential that I do some of this, but I have been thinking about how to gift myself with more energy and attention to important things and I realized that those seemingly meaningless tasks bring me no joy whatsoever, but the outcomes bring me happiness. I like the house to be clean, I love the smell of clean laundry and it is nice to have a choice of what clothes to wear, I like to check "done" on my to do list, and driving usually means that I am doing something that a) needs to be done for myself, b) is important for my children, or c) may be taking us somewhere where we actually want to go. So, in that light, all of these things that take my time and attention are important and need attending to.

What needs to change is how I make these necessary activities part of my life and enjoy said outcomes without allowing them to take over. I will start with picking up the house. What makes me eternally joyful and ever so happy is when my children and my husband actually clean up their own messes. To that end I will be directing more attention to teaching my children how to do this. I doubt that I will be able to actually teach my husband how to pick up after himself, but I have heard the children remind him to do so on more than one occasion and that is a start. For me, there is always meditation or copious amounts of red wine. Messes don't seem to bother me as much when I engage in either one of those activities.

Whenever a mother says that she wants to "be happy," it is considered selfish. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if I ain't happy, this household of mine isn't very happy either. I don't mean this in a selfish, surface kind of way. True inner happiness is important, mother or not. In this most people are the same. People are happy when they are able to attend to things that bring them pleasure. Attention is an ethereal concept. I am trying to make it more solid. The Utne Reader article recommends using some form of meditation, or having periods of time when you are able to empty your mind and "zone out." Apparently it is during these periods of time that humans are able to recharge their capacity for creativity and center on the things that are important. This has always been challenging for me, I sense that is the case for many of us type "A's," but I have to say that I am getting better. Yoga at least once a week has been a good start. Sitting down and actually completing this post without jumping up to attend to every argument going on between my children or to clean up the leftover dinner food has been another. Day by day, hour by hour...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It's that Time of Year Again!

It's that time of year again and with two Girl Scouts in the house, I am slowly, or maybe quickly, eating my way up that scale! Forget ordering in bulk and freezing to have all year long, if I ordered in bulk I would probably eat in bulk right now!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Television Series Addiction

Yes, it is true, I am officially addicted to the BBC Dr. Who telly series. THANK YOU MEG! I can blame her all I want, but I am addicted to the story line. I am not typically much of a science fiction fan, but I buy into the fantasy elements of the story lines in Dr. Who so it works for me. Sadly, this duo, David Tennant and Billie Piper will be replaced in this new season (actually Billie Piper has been off the show for a while now). I will miss them, but I have no doubt that I can probably get used to the replacements. It seems somewhat odd to be addicted to a television series again. I used to have my line up of shows and then the screen writers strike came (yes, I know that was a long time ago) and there was nothing new on for a very long time and I just lost interest in my old favorites. This is a fairly common cycle with me and television though, on and off again addictions. Sometimes I just prefer to read or futz around on the computer or talk to my family (what a novel idea!).

At any rate, I was going to post a rant today about how I have been needing to do everyone elses jobs for them all morning. There are some low hanging power lines that cross the PUBLIC street in front of our house. The garbage service is refusing to pick up our trash and after two hours on the phone with a number of different possible power line sources, nobody wanted to take responsibility for the problem. I was actually forced to call the city, which is not something that I ever like to do. Aside from taking the power lines down myself and re-setting them I was really out of options. It felt much better talking about the joys of Dr. Who. I think that I will just reflect on that right now and take three deep breaths.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hometown Boy Does Good!

Farewell Apolo, we will miss not seeing you skate at the next Olympics. We who have followed your speed skating career are glad to see you exit with such a glorious bang! Oh, and besides speed skating, I loved watching you on Dancing with the Stars! Good luck and good night.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Olympics, Here Again

I have been staying up late, too late. When the Olympics are on, my latent inner sports fan seems to kick in and I can't get enough. The skiing this year has been particularly interesting for me to watch as I recognize much of the landscape in and around Whistler and even recognize some of the runs that I have skied on, not going over 100 miles per hour, however. I am loving the ice dancing. Another skating event that I enjoy is speed skating and the fact the two of the competitors hail from a small town just south of where I live. I have always been partial to ice skating. When I was young I took ice skating lessons for a number of years, I was never in any competitions, but I still enjoy watching and doing ice skating. I also like to support local talent, it makes the whole event more personal. We seriously thought about getting tickets to an event or two and heading north, but despite the close proximity of the events this year, the price of accomodations remains out of reach. I was offered tickets to one of the women's snowboarding events, but the logistics of travelling to and from were exhausting to calculate, so here I sit at home enjoying the games from the comfort of my own couch.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Healthcare, A Broken System

I have been reluctant to post any issues pertaining to the health care system on this little blog of mine because it seems like this is such a loaded issue these days. First I need to state that I work in the healthcare system. I work in rehabilitation and have done this work for many years so my view will be very different from say an insurance administrator or someone familiar with the healthcare system from only the point of view of being a patient in it. The healthcare system in the United States is broken. The current system does not work. What most people don't realize though is that it is not those who have nothing that are in need of decent healthcare, the most neglected citizens in our current system are those who work but are either kept just under the minimum hours to qualify for coverage or work more than one job, but not enough hours at each to qualify for benefits. If those who had absolutely nothing would stop using the emergency room for basic health services this would generate a huge savings overall.

This is of course only one side of this multi-sided issue. The side that I am going to focus on today is the one in which insurance companies are allowed to dictate and make healthcare decisions for patients. As a professional, my first instance with this was when I was on the phone trying to get approval for more therapy sessions for a child. The insurance administrator told me that she could not approve more sessions as the child had not made progress. This was after I had sent her a detailed summary showing how much progress had been made. On the phone this insurance representative actually admitted that she didn't understand the information in my report and that she would need to get more clarification. The child was able to get more services, but I wonder how often there is a positive outcome to these interactions. Not only is this demeaning for a person who put themselves in debt going to school to specialize in an area that they just might know more about than the pencil pusher on the other end of the line, but it compromises care for all patients when business representatives and not medical personal begin making life altering decisions regarding medical care.

Nothing could better illustrate this point than the healthcare debacle faced by some close friends of mine this week. The husband/father fell at a ski area and broke his leg in several places. This necessitated ambulance transport to a nearby hospital which was not at all near to where the family lives. He had to have surgery. During his five day stay in the hospital various hospital representatives, never the medical personnel, told his wife that he would be transferred to a hospital closer to their home or discharged to an in-patient rehabilitation facility. This sounded good, but guess what?? Their insurance company would not approve the transfer or in-patient rehabilitation. The insurance company told the hospital that this man should be discharged and sent home. This edict was given when he still had a catheter, could only get in and out of bed via two-person assist, was still on IV medication, and had began to develop skin breakdown because he had not been moved in the last five days. On day five he did get a shower. To top it all off he would need to go down a flight of stairs to reach a bedroom in their current home and their mattress at home is on the floor. Yes, shocking as it may seem this is the state of healthcare for insured patients in our country. Yet I still remember a number of years back when my brother was high on drugs and went to an emergency room to have a splinter removed. The bill for that visit was over $300.00 but he was homeless and unemployed so he didn't have to pay a dime. Later, when he was rehabilitated and no longer on drugs I asked him why he did things like that he told me it was because he didn't think that he should have to make an appointment and wait. Hmmm...I wonder how many people in our country think that they shouldn't have to wait for healthcare services.

So back to my story. Yesterday my friend was catheter free, but had not yet been able to get out of bed and make it to the restroom without a two-person assist. His wife was becoming hysterical regarding how she would possibly be able to work full-time, take care of their two-children, and nurse him back to health without any assistance. Finally the insurance company agreed to some in-patient rehabilitation in a nursing home. He can stay there for a week and try and learn to get around without two extra people helping him. For their sakes I hope that he can make a speedy recovery, it just sucks that the care that they have paid for offers so very little in return.