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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Overreacting: Is it Inevitable or is it Just Me?

I went to "Get to Know Your School Night" last evening and it was quite a surreal experience. First of all, it hit me on the drive there that I was going to an open house for my four-year-old . . . that both he and I are old enough for this . . . that I am once again faced with the idea that I am becoming my parents. I mean, I remember my parents going to my open houses and teacher conferences; When did I grow old enough to do this and why is it always a surprise when I have one of these events? Why am I always weirded out by the idea that I'm doing parent things, afterall it's been over four years now - I should be getting used to it.

So that was Episode One: The Drive. Then came Episode Two: Back to School.

Now my husband and I rotate who picks up my son from school depending upon who is working and who is not, so I've been inside his school several times over the last month, but when I pick him up I have to wait outside the main office and they bring all the kids down at once to be picked up. But last night everything was open and I got to walk through the halls of public education, up the cement stairs and into my child's classroom where he has spent the last four weeks. Walking through the corridors I was overcome with a great sense of nostalgia - the sound of my shoes on the tiled floor; the cold, metal railing along the stairs; the butterflies in my stomach resurrected from my own first day of school. Once I entered into my son's classroom it was time to switch back into Mommy Mode.

Episode Three: The Conversation.

So after walking around and checking out the art projects, housekeeping area, center activities, etc. - I found out my son wished upon a star for a Diego t-shirt and turned each page of his All About Me book with great anticipation - I approached his teacher. I was nervous about talking to her, but I don't know why. She is probably one of the sweetest people I've ever met, but I'm apprehensive and finally muster up the courage to ask how my son is doing about 10 minutes after I originally had the notion to talk to her.

"He's doing great!" Phew. That was easy. Exactly what I came here for. Of course he's doing great. Why wouldn't he be doing great? . . . .
"My only concern is his independent play."

Hold on. Concern? She's concerned? So I guess now I should be concerned. I thought he was doing great? I put my thoughts on hold and tuned back in to hear that my little guy has a bit of a socialization issue. He apparently doesn't do much. He doesn't know what to do with himself unless he's given direction and once he's given said direction if there's another child doing the same activity or in the same vicinity - he just stands there and stares at them. Same with recess. He stands to the side with his teacher while he watches everyone else run around and have fun. I got this image of him as a lost puppy.

I heard words like, "He seems to put up, like, this wall," and "Does he play on his own at home?" and "Do you have to tell him what to do all the time or is he self directed at all?" I mean, I understand all that she's saying - my son is shy, like his mother, and I was really hoping he wouldn't be. Afterall, I didn't enjoy being shy as a child and I still have my episodes, like last night when I had to talk to his teacher. But a lot of what she was saying is not like the little boy I know at home or the energetic little guy who plays with his friends or cousins outside of school and I was taken aback.

The one bright spot of the interaction came when his teacher informed me that she and the other preschool teachers and aides believe that my son will either come around and become a social butterfly before the winter break or he's just one of those quiet kids who will wind up getting a scholarship to an engineering school at the age of 15. (This comment was preceded by talk of his doing well in centers and any kind of directed activity, his fantastic imagination and impressive verbal skills. So it wasn't all bad.)

Which leads me to Episode Four: The Breakdown.

My husband was at work last night, so when I got home and released my in-laws from babysitting duty I had no one to talk to. I put my boys to bed and then I had a bit of a breakdown. I'll be the first to admit that it was an overreaction on my part, but it happened nonetheless. I just had these visions of my little boy being lost and alone, unable to connect with other kids - mostly I was upset because I had hoped that he would not inherit my shyness and somehow I felt responsible via genetics and my inability to prepare him to be on his own.

Thankfully, Cheryl called me last night. She was wonderful. She listened and she offered comfort at just the right times. She didn't call me crazy or overly emotional (words I expected to hear from my husband if I told him about about it), she was a friend and a fellow mother. She understood and she validated my crazy feelings, while telling me to just give him a chance to adjust to his new situation. :)

I can see just how ridiculous I was last night, but there's still a piece of me that's worried. I say I'm a laidback parent. I have everyone convinced, including myself until last night, that I am not one of those parents who is completely caught up in my children's lives; that I don't associate their successes and failures with my own; that I acknowledge they are individuals and that they must struggle in order to grow . . . Yeah, I talk a really good game.

But when it comes down to it I do see my my son's failures as my own; his struggles my struggles; I want his road to be a smooth one even though my rational mind tells me that a few bumps along the way build character . . . I guess I want his existence to be perfect and that's a problem for both of us.

We've both got some growing pains up ahead to get through and I wonder who the next few months will be toughest for - my son, myself or my husband :)

P.S. Upon posting this, my Daily Dose of Emerson quote box offered up this piece of wisdom: "Our strength grows out of our weaknesses."

Oh, Great Universe, how you amaze me . . . Sleep well, everyone. Sweet Dreams.

ExLinks Madness

So I'm doing my Blogmad surfing and I keep seeing these ads for ExLinks. I mean they're everywhere! Curious I click on a few of the banners and they all bring me to a screen where I can sign up for ExLinks, but there's no information about what ExLinks. Nothing besides the following: "Expand your site. ExLinks is the ultimate, exponential link-swapping, site exploding system, and it's completely FREE!"

OK. It's free. Great. It will expand your site. All right. How? What is it? Nobody really knows because the people at ExLinks don't want them to know. That's what's so cool about it, I guess.

But why would you sign up for something you know nothing about? Why would you try to encourage others to sign up for something neither you nor they know anything about? I don't get it.

I guess I may be hip enough to have latched onto this whole blogging thing, but not cool enough for ExLinks . . . At least not until I find out what it is :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Random Thought Thursday: The Birth of Genius

My husband and I were watching PBS for a bit tonight and there was a documentary on about architect Frank Gehry. He is known as a risk taker, a genius in his field, and has among his most notable designs the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the Vitra Design Museum in Germany. (His work is very modern and I was amazed in that many of his buildings look as if they shouldn't be able to stand; the design is so crazy. If you want to see some wonderful architecture, Google him one night. It's fascinating stuff.)

Anyway, in this documentary he mentions that he had a grandmother who used to put out paper, toothpicks, glue, scissors, cottonballs, wood scraps - basic odds and ends - on a table and build models and sculptures with him. Decades later Gehry became a world renowned architect. Hmmm . . .

And then there are musicians. How many times have you heard on VH-1's Behind the Music that Dave or Phil remember getting their first drum set at age four or picking up big brother's guitar at age five and never putting it back down.

What about the painter who doesn't remember his first set of paints, but has pictures of creating his first piece when he was three - a "mural" on the kitchen floor drawn with his mother's favorite lipstick.

What about the biologist who remembers getting a microscope for Christmas or the astronomer who was surprised when she got a telescope for her 10th birthday.

You get the idea. And it all got me thinking. Where does genius come from? Are people born with it? Does it have to be nurtured? If so, does the nurturing of the genius have to be focused on or pertaining to that particular child's "special" talent? How do we know if our children possess such a talent? Or does it develop based upon the child's environment and the objects that are introduced into the child's life?

Or is it a lot of luck? I mean, how many children have been given musical instruments, have been forced to take piano lessons or join the church choir and upon leaving for college never touched an instrument again? What about all of those kids who loved to fingerpaint and build sculptures only to become geneticists or doctors or paleontologists? Where does genius come from?

I'm not really sure . . . That's why I'm asking you.

The only thing I know for sure is that the role of a parent seems to to be that of a coach - not an overbearing, win obsessed monster who makes you run laps for failure - that is, someone who provides the opportunities for success, but the actual success or failure is up to the individual child. I guess we can't know what our children will excel in and what he/she likes today may be entirely different from the profession or passion he/she picks up 20, 30 or even 40 years down the line.

So I guess we just have to keep buying the fingerpaints, the hockey equipment, the drums, the scraps for making collages and the biggest box of Crayola crayons we can find. And remember to take lots of pictures and keep a detailed journal - you never know when Behind the Music might show up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Keith Olbermann Fights Back for All of Us

Last night Keith Olbermann closed out his broadcast with his "Special Comment" segment and yet again went on the offensive against the Bush Administration and all it's propagandist glory. Now, I don't have cable, and often I don't feel I'm missing out - I loathe cable news channels because they have taking all meaning out of the word "news" in that they will cover anything that will bring in viewers, newsworthy or not; but that's an entirely different post - but I missed out last night.

I caught the video on the Crooks and Liars blog and Olbermann's commentary is so good, I just have to encourage as many of you as possible to check out the segment. It's just so refreshing, invigorating really, to see SOMEONE in the media standing up for the truth instead of spewing back press releases and skewed facts or outright lies to the audiences who depend on them to act as a filter and provide them with the truth.

Olbermann responded to the use of the recent Bill Clinton-Chris Wallace interview where, as touted by rightwing propaganda machines, Clinton "loses it" and "goes crazy" when faced with questions regarding his inability to take care of Osama Bin Laden during Clinton's tenure. Clinton becomes emotional and admits that he failed in taking care of the Bin Laden threat, but fires back, and quite vehemently, that "others" had eight months to continue to try and catch Bin Laden, but they "didn't even try."

Then came 9/11 and suddenly Bush tries to make himself out to be the hero by going into Afghanistan, and later Iraq, to weed out the terrorist threats that threaten American lives at home. The Bush Administration wants us to believe that they could have never prepared for such an attack as 9/11, that no one could have known what was coming, then as midterm elections are coming up suddenly he and his cronies want us to believe that it was Clinton's fault, a Democrat by the way, that 9/11 happened.

It's pathetic! It's outrageous! It's insulting when you realize that Bush is counting on Americans being stupid in that we can't remember the crap that came out of his mouth five years ago when 9/11 happened!!! Maybe he's the one who suffers from short term memory loss - or maybe he's just so damn arrogant that he actually believes that the "American people" will simply believe whatever comes out of his trap - Kind of like the word of God, maybe?

Anyway, I can't type anymore because as I do I'm getting angrier and angrier and my fingertips are starting to throb because I'm hitting the keyboard so hard. And I don't want to break my keyboard because then I won't be able to type at all and God knows what outright fallacy will come out of the White House tomorrow.

So watch the video or read the transcript, please. It's about 10 minutes out of your day, but well worth the time. It's a wonderfully written piece and I love that it has some great words and phrases in it - like "malfeasance," and "bleat and whine and bully," and "without conscience or shame," - it's beautiful!!

Thank you, Mr. Olbermann for standing up against your corporate sponsors, for going against the grain of your complacent peers and for giving a voice to the millions of Americans who are fed up, who are sick of being lied to and who are ready for a change to come. The groundswell is well underway - I feel a tidal wave a coming and, with any luck, politics as usual will never be the same.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Highlights from My Library

I saw this survey on another blog and thought it was a good one. I think it's an interesting way to get to know people - afterall what we read says a lot about who are, doesn't it? So here goes:

1. One Book That Changed Your Life: "In the Meantime," by Iyanla Vanzant
I was struggling with depression in my early twenties and books became my lifeline. I happened upon this one (one of many impulse buys at Amazon during that time) and although I only got through about half of it before switching to something else (my attention span was lacking at the point in my life, too) I will never forget the one piece of advice I took away from it. It was that I needed to accept the idea that I could be "alone," - meaning that boyfriends and friends may come and go, I may never get married or have children - and that I was the only sure thing in my life; Until I came to love and accept who I was (warts and all) then I wouldn't be able to love someone else the way they needed and they wouldn't be able to love me. So in time I came to accept myself, to want to be me because I was going to be with me for quite some time. It was either that or be miserable :)

2. One Book You've Read More Than Once: "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz
I've read it now two or three times and I'm sure I'll read it at least a half dozen more times in my life. It's greatest impact on my life came when I read it this past spring - it truly changed the way I see myself and others and caused me to change behaviors and thoughts I have in my everyday life.

3. One Book You'd Bring to a Deserted Island: "The Portable Emerson"
You all know I've been on a Ralph Waldo Emerson/Henry David Thoreau kick as of late. If I had to leave for the island tomorrow I'd be lost without good old RWE

4. One Book That Made You Laugh: "The Van," by Roddy Doyle
And I mean laugh out loud. It's Irish humor and storytelling at its best! It's set against the backdrop of two friends going into business to run a fish & chips van and it's hysterical. If you ever need a pick me up, I'll lend you my copy - it's a quick read and you can't possibly be sad after reading it.

5. One Book That Made You Cry: I don't think I've ever cried while reading a book. (Not that I can remember) I'm more of a visual person - images and dialogue and music make me cry. You know, the stereotypical female who cries at long distance commercials? Well, I'm not quite that bad, but I've been known to cry watching commercials involving babies or mothers having to say goodbye to their children . . . I know, I know :)

6. One Book You Wish You Had Written: "A People's History of the United States," by Howard Zinn
This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Anyone who has been educated in the U.S. needs to read this one because it provides a completely different take on U.S. History and it's not at all like what you learned in school growing up. (In fact, as soon as my boys are old enough I will tell them that although they get a day from school for Columbus Day, we don't celebrate such a man in our house - then I'll hand them my worn copy of A People's History.) I wish I had written it, but it wouldn't have been as good as Zinn. Only someone who has had the experiences he has had, who has lived the life of an activist, educator and student of history could have written such a profound book. It is quite possible the most eye opening read I have ever experienced.

7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written: I don't believe in censorship (although I was appalled at Paris Hilton becoming a published "author" ... Yuck!!!)

8. One Book You're Reading Now: "The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined All Women," by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels
Quite and interesting read so far. The premise is that the images portrayed in the media of what it is to be a mother create unattainable ideals for real life mothers, yet mothers feel pressured by the media, by family members, friends and especially other mothers to live up to those impossible standards. Some research for my NaNo novel.

9. One Book You've Been Meaning to Read: "The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature," by David Suzuki
Started this one a few months back with Shannon and haven't gotten back to it. I was so into it at the time (it's a fantastic read), but I've been distracted with other things and so it sits on my nightstand with the bookmark still in it from where I left off. We will finish it Shannon, I promise!!!

10. Tag Five Others You'd Like to Take This Survey: Cheryl, Shani, Shannon (by email if you wish), Jessica, Brian . . . Hell, I could go on and on. I'd be interested to see anybody's answers to this one!

Keep reading!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

P.S. Check out Controlled Chaos

I'm tired tonight, so I don't have anything original coming out of my brain. Instead, I thought I'd offer up another website that I keep forgetting to mention.

It's called Controlled Chaos and it's a wonderful blog - but not in the "traditional" sense (although aren't blogs supposed to be anything but traditional - isn't that the point?). Anyway, Rob's blog is a photographic study in the everyday and his photographs are amazing. He posts lots of nature photos with simple subjects and composition, and vibrant colors that jump off the screen.

My most recent favorite is the "Friendly Frog" with crisp, green blades of grass that surround the little guy like a fortress as he tries to hide from the camera's prying eye. Great, great photos.

So if you have a few moments, click on by Controlled Chaos and let Rob (or me) know what you think :)

Bush & His Cronies Still Up to No Good

I found a fantastic post over at F a t c a t Politics that I'd like you guys to check out. I don't want to say too much because the post says it all, but suffice it to say it's another scathing review of the Bush Administration's latest attempt to change the law so that their illegal activity will be illegal no more. Pathetic.

While you're at it, if you're living in the States, consider sending the petition to uphold fair trials and judicial review to your Congressmen - there's a link to it right there at the end of the post.

November 2008 . . . Get out the vote!! It may not seem like much, but you could be a part of changing the disastrous course the U.S. is currently on.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Holy Pregnant Mama, Batman!

Double post day!!! But this one is lighthearted and fun, in fact I suggest checking the video out after you get irate about my previous post. It calms the nerves and will make you smile :)

Many of you have probably already seen or heard about this, but I wanted to share it anyway. It's too good to miss.

It's called the "Gestation Video" and it's a daily visual account of the physical changes a woman's body goes through during pregnancy - in other words, it's a video of a mommy's growing belly that reduces 9 months into 20 seconds of wonder.

It's an amazing piece and it just shows the beauty of women as they carry another human life. It also brought me back to my ninth month of pregnancy when I thought my stomach could stretch no more! But it did! And it's never been the same since!

Anyway, check it out. Let me know what you think.

The Talk of "The Nation"

I was up late last night watching the premieres of Grey's Anatomy and ER . . . Great by the way! . . . And trying to catch up on my reading at the same time. (I finished my book about the friendship between Thoreau and Emerson, but haven't had time to write the review it deserves. Excellent book, that's all I'll say for now. Details to follow.) So I was reading the Sept. 25th issue of The Nation and it's an all encompassing analysis of the U.S. and its policies since 9/11.

So I start reading this column by David Cole and I just wanted to share a couple of paragraphs. Not because it's earth shattering news or analysis, but because I don't think that enough people know the facts.

The Bush Administration continues to try and scare us with threats of another terrorist attack if we don't allow the CIA to continue to use torture and other extreme means to get information from suspects. Dubyah also says that if we were to leave Iraq now it would be a victory for the insurgents and set Iraq up as a training ground amid the chaos for terrorists. (Isn't that what's happening now?) He claims that the language used in the Geneva Conventions articles regarding the treatment of POWs and "people of interest" is vague (as it is intended to be so that those in power don't come anywhere near crossing it) and therefore he can say with certainty that the U.S. doesn't cross those boundaries. That if Congress tries to pass legislation that holds interrogators responsible, in a legal and criminal sense, for their actions if they are shown to have crossed the guidelines setup in the Geneva Conventions then Dubyah will be forced to shut down the interrogation program altogether and the U.S. will be vulnerable to future terrorist attacks.


There are so many things wrong with what he says that I hope they are glaring to those of you reading this. I don't have the time or patience to go through each and every ludicrous statement that comes out of his mouth. But to have the balls to stand in front of the world and defend the torture of human beings for "national security reasons" is appalling . . . . And people wonder why foreign leaders have called him "the devil" and "a tyrant" in their own speeches at the U.N.

But I digress. Just read the following paragraphs and keep them in the back of your mind the next time that propaganda machine known as the President is spewing lies with his latest soundbyte on the evening news:

"More than 5,000 foreign nationals within the United States were locked up in anti-terrorism initiatives in the first two years after 9/11 - yet as I have noted before, not a single one has been convicted of a terrorist crime. The Special Registration program also came up short. It required 80,000 immigrants from countries with predominantly Arab and Muslim populations to come into immigration offices for interviews, fingerprinting and photographing. Yet it failed to identify and convict a single terrorist . . .

"In the President's eyes, the threat of terrorism has justified warrantless spying on Americans, detention without charges of thousands around the world and at home, unprecendented intrusions on privacy, close monitoring of Quakers and other anitwar dissenters, and the torture of suspects at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere - all in the name of making us safe . . . it appears we have sacrificed liberty for security, and obtained neither."

Scary, isn't it? Special Registration program? Secret dententions? Torture? Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

This isn't the America I grew up believing in and I will do what I can when I vote in November to stop this madness.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Random Thought Thursday: Quote

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily." --Mike Murdock

What do you want to change in your daily life? Now, think baby steps. Don't get ahead of yourself. What's something simple that you could do today and tomorrow and the next day to interrupt your previously monotonous, unfulfilling routine?

I think I'd like to start with my health. When I read this quote the very first time, it hit me immediately - I need to start taking my daily walk. You know, the one I've been threatening to take for about . . . oh six or seven months . . . the one I said last March I was going to start taking as soon as the weather warmed up :)

Never happened. But just think of all the wonderful things that would result from a daily walk:

  • 1. There's the obvious - My health will improve; my heart will pump more efficiently, I won't get winded going up stairs and I won't get a stitch in my side anymore after walking uphill

  • 2. What about the time alone to think, to observe the world around me, to watch as the leaves on the trees change color, to smile at the squirrels gathering nuts for winter - the peace that will envelop me by taking some time out to just enjoy nature.

  • 3. A sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing that I set a goal to take a walk everyday, and I did it!

  • 4. And who knows what might be next since I'm feeling better about myself from the inside out - 2007 Boston Marathon here I come!!! (OK, getting a little out of hand there, but the quote said this is how I change my life!)

So think of one simple thing you can do today, something you've been putting off, something you've been telling yourself you don't have time for - is it getting time alone to read? To write? To keep in touch with your friends? To get in some kind of physical activity?

Start small and see how big of a difference it can make.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Story to Warm the Cockles of Your Heart

I saw this story on the news last night and I must share. It just illustrates perfectly that in this world of consumerism, the focus on material wealth and the acquisition of power at any cost that there are still people out there - and more importantly children - who will think of others first even when it means giving up a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sam Jordan is a 12-year-old boy from Massachusetts. His father, Fred, recently won an item at an auction for the Hope Lodge Foundation - an organization that provides temporary housing for the families of children with cancer who are receiving treatment in Boston. The auction was held to raise money to build another Hope Lodge closer to the Boston area so that families could be closer to the hospitals.

Sam's father won the auction for the chance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Red Sox-Twins game the other night. Now both father and son are big Red Sox fans and young Sam was ecstatic when his father came home and gave the gift to his son. Then something amazing happened.

The very next day, Sam began asking questions about what the Hope Lodge was and who it benefited and Sam told his father that he would like to donate his gift to one of the children with cancer instead of keeping the experience for himself. Sam said he realized that he has a great life and that these kids with cancer had been through so much, "They deserved it more than I did."

Father and son teamed up with the American Cancer Society and they find eight-year-old Cameron Brown from Philadelphia. Cameron has been fighting brain cancer. He developed a very large, disfiguring tumor on his brain when he was just four years old and his family had been recent residents of Hope Lodge while he was undergoing treatment in Boston. Through the wonders of medical science and a lot of hope and prayers, I'm sure, little Cameron's tumor was removed, he has endured chemotherapy and is currently in remission. Sam knew what he wanted to do.

So Sam made the donation to Cameron through the ACS and the two had never met until last night. And when the Red Sox heard the story they thought that Sam deserved to be at the game as well, so they welcomed Cameron and his family, along with Sam and his family as their guests at Fenway Park. And finally, with photographers and TV cameras surrounding them, Sam and Cameron met.

"I think he's a really nice boy," Cameron said of his new friend Sam. Sam returned the sentiment with a playful rub of Cameron's Red Sox cap.

And as if making a new friend and feeling his heart fill up with pride and happiness wasn't enough, the Red Sox decided to give Sam one more reward by allowing him to throw out the "first" pitch in tandem with his new friend Cameron.

Life is truly beautiful, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Pope vs. Islam . . . Me vs. Religion

Let me start by saying that I am not a Catholic and therefore have never given much stock to what the Pope says. However, I do understand that he holds one of the most powerful positions in Europe and has great influence over millions of Christians throughout the world. So by virtue of having that power people listen when Pope Benedict XVI speaks, Christians and non-Christians alike, as was illustrated when he gave a recent speech at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The address was entitled "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections," and was, according to the Pope, meant to open an inter-faith dialogue, but instead of speaking people are rioting, burning down churches and there is suspicion that outrage in Somalia over the Pope's words may have contributed to the murder of an Italian nun doing missionary work in that country.

You see, the Pope was discussing the idea that spreading faith through the use of violence, ie holy wars and Jihad, goes against God's will and is therefore not sanctioned, if you will, by God. All right, I'm with him there.

Then he gets into some trouble.

The Pope made a reference to a medieval Byzantine Emperor who was according to him "an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both." Pope Benedict XVI then goes on to quote the emperor who said,

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

"...Evil and inhuman," now why would anyone be offended by that?

The Pope has since come forward and "apologized" in saying,

"I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address . . . These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought. I hope this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address . . ."

Now, it is interesting to note here that while Pope Benedict XVI felt it pertinent to quote a medieval emperor who painted Islam as evil and spreading its faith by the sword, he did not mention a series of holy wars perpetrated by Christians known as The Crusades which happened to occur during the same medieval time period. Hmmm . . . I wonder why he didn't mention that?

But this is all a bit superfluous; my real problem is not with the Pope (at least we got to see his real character and not just the polished, holy image that is created for him by the Catholic Church), but with religion itself.

To me this is just another example of how religion is not about unifying people in faith, in fact it's about doing the exact opposite - separating the believers from the non-believers, Christians from Muslims, Muslims from Jews, those who are going to heaven in the after life from those who will spend an eternity in hell.

It just so happens that this time people were offended by the blatant manner in which the statement was made. I mean, let's face it, Christians believe that non-Christians, no matter what religion they subscribe to, have it all wrong. They believe that non-Christians are living without the one true faith and wandering the Earth like lost sheep in search of their shepherd. And in turn, non-Christians believe the same thing about Christians. (Although I don't recall Jesus mentioning that those who do not believe are evil or inhuman.)

Those who subscribe to any faith are convinced that their way is the "right" way and when you're dealing with matters of eternal damnation or salvation, I guess tensions tend to rise. But does it really matter who goes to heaven and who goes to hell? Do "people of faith" really care which of their fellow man have their souls saved and follow the way and the light and which ones don't?

Besides, how can you really argue at all? Believing in the existence of God cannot be proven true or false, so why get all worked up about it? Look at the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians - did it really begin because of religious conflict? Why can't we all choose to worship who we want or if we want to at all?

I just don't understand why religion causes such great tensions and sometimes even armed conflict. Violence seems to be in direct conflict with most religious teachings I am familiar with and, wait a minute, wasn't that what Pope Benedict XVI was getting at? And yet, we have rioting and possible murder. I'm thoroughly confused.

Meanwhile the world continues to fracture because "they" don't belong to our club and "those people" don't believe in Jesus and "those people over there" are really bad because they don't believe in any god at all! The fighting will continue over who worships the "right' god and who will be rewarded after death and who won't, who is sinful and who has been forgiven - and none of us will know who was right until it's too late anyway.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Guilt . . . I Have a Few Thoughts

Just hanging around listening to the Patriots-Jets game and my boys wrestling one another like "bear cubs" as my husband so eloquently put it . . .

Against said white noise, I'm thinking about the idea of guilt and how it is used against all of us - some more effectively than others - and how we use it to get what we want from others, too. This isn't a complete non sequitur (601 SAT word, Cheryl!) since a certain member of our family, not be named here, tried to use it against my husband AGAIN today ...

And I've come to the conclusion that guilt is the worst kind of weapon in that it tries to eat away at our sense of responsibility, our feelings of love and friendship - it is most effective when the perpetrator exploits the personal, intimate relationship they share with us. So why is it that something so manipulative is used against us by the people we love the most?

Because it works - in most cases.

I, personally, have tried to make it a goal of mine to not only resist succumbing to feelings of guilt and therefore giving in to the desires of others when they use it, but I often will make a point of telling the person trying to manipulate me that I don't appreciate it and I wouldn't do it to them. In other words, if you have a question or a request - JUST ASK ME! And if you're not ready to hear an honest answer, then don't ask the question!

I think that guilt comes through many channels - religion, spousal relationships (and I know I am not completely innocent when it comes to that one), sibling relationships, friends - but I think the most frequent offenders tend to be parents. The idea that because they raised us well, because they sacrificed time and personal goals or dreams in order to give us the life that we have, because they birthed us from their very bodies - we somehow OWE them something.

I'm don't buy it.

In the words of Chris Rock, parents are "supposed to take care of their children!" Children don't ask to be brought into the world and therefore there is no owing of anything. Parents choose to be parents, consciously or inadvertently, they decide that they are going to bring fellow human beings into the world who will be totally dependent on them for at least two decades (probably more) and that the responsibilities of being a parent do not end until you're lying six feet under ground.

And parents should also understand that they don't bring children into the world to provide them with lifelong companionship - as a parent my job is to raise to totally independent men who will go out into the world and make a positive mark upon it. Hopefully, they will remember to call once in a while and even visit their old mom occasionally - but if those visits are rare then that's something I will have to accept.

So why is it that because a parent chose to take on the responsibility of parenthood that they feel they have the right to inflict sometimes overwhelming guilt on the people they claim to love the most? I mean, I love my parents very much and I do things for my mother because I love her. It makes me happy to see her happy. But if she were to call me right now and ask me a favor not directly, but by hinting that I should help her out because she babysits my children I'd call her out.

I know this probably sounds harsh, but I don't feel that I OWE my parents anything. I don't do things for them out of some sense of obligation. I help them out, when I can, when it doesn't interfere negatively with my own family because I WANT to. Sometimes I don't necessarily want to help, but I do it because I know they need help and I'm in a position to provide assistance and that's what love is.

Using guilt is manipulative, plain and simple, no matter who's doing the (strong arming) asking.

Now, I just hope that I can remember all this when my boys are all grown up and have families of their own and I want them to come to Thanksgiving dinner or help their aging father mow the lawn :)

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Show Me the Money!!!

Initial Setup on Free

Personalization of my blog "Just Thinking . . ." : Countless Hours of Blood, Sweat and Tears (and Sore Fingertips, Possiblly Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)

Daily Posts to Spark Conversation with Friends: 1 hour/day

Review of Comments and Replies: 30 minutes/day

Value Placed Upon this Vibrant Community of Friends and Contributors Engaged in Titillating Conversation and Free Flow of Ideas:

My blog is worth $0.00.
How much is your blog worth?

The Utter Disappointment I Experienced When Faced (Again) with the Realization that Everything Does Indeed Have a Price: Priceless

Friday, September 15, 2006

For Cheryl

What with my sometimes anxious feelings about driving on highways, I didn't think it would be a good idea to pull over on the side of 290 to get you the picture of Orson you requested. This is the only picture I could find on the web - something about it is kind of weird to me and I know it's not the same without the billboard in the background - But it's the best I've got :)

*polar bear hugs*

P.S. You know (I'm) getting old when my hips start to hurt while I'm . .
(I know it's not the title of the post, but good for a laugh just the same :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Who Was That Crazy Woman Yesterday?

So I'm feeling much better today, thank you :)

Although I actually did physical labor today at work and I'm exhausted! I definitely need to get going on my plan to start working out.

I was without computer access today at work due to my outside activities, so I haven't had much time to put together a long, drawn out thought for the day. (Yes, you may let that sigh of relief go . . . I won't be offended.)

So my random thought for this Thursday is . . .

What would you do for a Klondike Bar? (I love that cute, fuzzy polar bear!!!)

Peace, Everyone. Take care of each other :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WARNING: Crazy, Long Winded, Ranting Woman Ahead

Is it wrong of me to just want to drop everything, get my jacket, my keys and without telling anyone where I'm going just walk out the door? Not run, just walk. Then get into my car and drive to wherever and take out my notebook or the book I'm reading at the moment and sit in the silence. Then when I'm done I could go wherever I wanted to for dinner; I wouldn't have to prepare a meal for anyone else and I could eat without interruption. Then I could find a nice hotel with a big queen size bed and I'd get in between the covers and curl up until I was warm and then I could stretch each limb as far as it will go. And I could fall asleep, alone, and dream uninterrupted and sleep until noon (if I wished) and I could wake up and start all over again.

Not very Mommy-like I guess.

And let's just be honest: I would miss my three boys. I wouldn't be able to not know what's going on with them. I wouldn't be able to go without the hugs and kisses, the knock knock jokes, a light peck from my husband's lips before he goes to work. I love my family with all my heart and wouldn't be able to stand prolonged separation, but it's not really them I have a beef with today. It's the routine of everything. It's the mundane details of everyday life. It's the constant laundry (in particular) list of chores that we must do daily just to get by. Not only is this monotony not inspiring, sometimes it is suffocating and my heart pounds almost out of my chest in protest as the anger builds up inside that I have needs that aren't being met, that I have dreams and desires that are being put aside so I can be a wife and a mother and a housewife and a worker ant - so instead of taking the necessary time to just be me, I am stuck to march in line and do what I'm told just like all the other ants.

I guess what set me off today was the unending list of things "to do." I work five days a week, like many of you do, and today happens to be one of my days off. I got up this morning and after a truly fulfilling cuddle session with my older son the day was forced to begin. I showered and got dressed while my husband dressed the boys. I took my older son to preschool and my husband took our younger son to his grandpa's house so that I could go on a job interview after the drop-off at preschool.

So I went to the interview, I picked up my younger son and then we both went and got my older son from school. And when I opened the door at home it started - that overwhelming feeling of having to climb a mountain without water or shoes and, oh yes, it's raining all the way up. There were still half-eaten bowls of cereal sitting out on the kids' table with half-filled cups of milk to go along with. There were pajamas on the couch, jackets strewn on the recliner and a rather large assortment of toys spread over the floor from one end of the living room out into the kitchen.

And of course, my boys wanted lunch immediately and when I say immediately I mean five minutes ago. So I got lunch going, I picked up the breakfast leftovers and when I went to drop them in the sink I was greeted with an entire sink full of similar, dirty dishes. Now, I will have to give my husband credit here and say that usually he is the one who does the bulk of washing the dishes (we don't have a dishwasher and when I speak of buying a house I joke quite seriously that my only requirement is a dishwasher or the space to put one in!). But he didn't get to it this morning, which is usually fine, but wasn't fine this particular afternoon because I am in a mood.

Add to the dirty dishes, two more loads of laundry sitting by the washer waiting to be done and this after I did two or three loads yesterday (or was it the day before?) and I'm about to flip out. Our laundry baskets are bottomless pits and just when you think you have the beast under control someone has an accident, workout clothes and towels get added to the mix and you're back at square one with two full loads awaiting your attention.

So I begin to plan out how my afternoon should go - Lunch, laundry, dishes, put clothes away from previous days' laundry which are currently sitting folded on top of my bureau or on my bed or laying in a pile next to the bed and then I see them - CRUMBS!

There are crumbs on the kitchen island from my husband making his lunch, there are crumbs in the pantry under the griddle from yesterday's grilled cheese sandwich preparation, there are salt grains all over the table, there are crumbs under the boys' table from breakfast and now lunch, cookie crumbs in front of the TV - AAARRRGGGHHH! I hate crumbs! It's just a thing I have and I didn't notice them last night (maybe I was too tired or in denial) and I didn't notice them this morning, but now I can't stop looking at them and they seem to be taking over my house!

So I immediately put the game plan aside and get the broom and the vacuum and a washcloth to wipe down every flat surface I can find . . . and 20 minutes later when I'm done, I go back to my list. (I may in fact need medication for these sudden compulsions.) But as I start thinking about what else I have to do today I get angry. I get angry like a teenager who doesn't like being told what to do. I want time to myself. I want to do some writing, some reading, some web surfing - I want to do whatever I want to do! Then my mommy voice takes over and I tell myself that there will be time for that later. The washer is calling and I just stepped on a transformer that I swear just broke a bone in my foot - it's time to answer the call of Responsibility.

But I don't want, too!!!! I need to be swept away again. I need to be taken care of instead of taking care of others. I need to be the one who gets to enjoy a day of fun instead of being the one who had to plan it and make sure it goes smoothly. I need my husband to plan a weekend for us to go away for our anniversary. I need time to be selfish - to demand quiet and to be left to write regardless of what problems are raging behind my computer chair. I need a vacation from reality and I don't mean at the beach with the kids in tow because that's a chore in and of itself!

I want some excitement. I want some good conversation. I want to drink a few too many beers and not have to get up early the next morning. I want time alone with my husband and I want him to be interested in spending time alone with me without the TV or car magazines or the internet. I want him to do something to try and impress me again. I don't want comfort, I want spontaneity, I want romance, I want a back rub . . .

High maintenance, I know.

But I just want something different for a little while. I feel like I'm drowning in the everyday except for those precious moments - like when my older son tells me I look beautiful or my younger son runs to me when I walk in the door yelling "Mommy! I missed you!" or when my husband wraps me up in his arms and spoons me at night to keep me warm - in those moments I can take another quick breath, but something pushes my head right back under until the next, long awaited, gasp.

Selfish, whiny, unrealistic, immature - Call it What You Want (Never one of my favorite NKOTB songs, but brings a smile to my face regardless.) I guess it's the stagnancy I'm reeling against; that while my children are growing and the laundry pile grows and shrinks like the peaks and valleys on a lie detector printout and we go to work everyday and face different challenges - everyday is different, but everyday is the same. I'm feeling a need to break it up. I just wish I knew how.

P.S. I skipped the dishes and wrote this instead :)

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Life Lesson #158: Teachers Have Lives, too

My young, sensitive son has been doing quite well after two weeks of preschool. He's been a little timid at recess, according to "Miss Shani" he's been shadowing her in between trips down the slide or a quick run from one end of the wood chips to the other, but the tears of separation have pretty much dried up.

I'm glad he's formed such an attachment to his teacher because he's still very shy with the other children. They say hi to him in the morning when we're dropping off, but he grabs my hand or leg and tries to hide behind me or his dad instead of simply saying hi back. He was also having a lot of trouble the first week with missing his family. We gave him a picture of the four of us from this summer's vacation to keep in his backpack and then take out for those moments when he felt lonely. (His idea, by the way. He says when he sees the picture "it isn't so bad.")

But things have settled in quite nicely and more quickly than I thought they would considering how shy he is. He came home yesterday and told me excitedly that he played with one little girl at recess and they did an activity together involving matching squares. There's another little boy that he talks a lot about although he's said that he's still kind of shy (his description) around him, too. But if you ask him if he likes school, he says "I don't like school, I LOVE school!!!"

So I was somewhat disheartened when I saw the little note in his backpack this afternoon stating that "Miss Shani" would be absent from school for the remainder of the week. She has a little boy of her own who is starting school tomorrow and then has some mandatory training sessions to attend on Thursday and Friday. And "please inform your child that I will be back to school on Monday." Great. This will be almost as bad as breaking the news of the death of Black Nose. Super great.

So I told him this afternoon that "Miss Shani" would not be in school tomorrow or for the next two days, BUT that she couldn't wait to see everybody again on Monday! "But I don't want Miss Shani to have a day off!!!" And so the sobbing began.

Now, some of the tears could definitely be chalked up to sleepiness. Getting used to this routine, to any routine really, has been an adjustment in and of itself. After I read two books before bed, one chosen by each of my sons, it takes all of seven minutes for him to fall sound asleep; and I mean, heavy breathing, mouth gaping wide open and all.

But later when he was getting a bath he broke down again saying that he didn't want to go to school tomorrow, he didn't want another teacher and the tears reappeared. I tried to explain that she wasn't going to be gone forever, that she would be back in a few days and that the new teacher would do things just like "Miss Shani" does with the same songs and recess and storytime and circle time . . . no good. I explained that "Miss Shani" has a little boy of her own and that she wanted to take him to school for his first day just like I took him on his first day because "Miss Shani" is a teacher and a mommy, too.

"I don't want Miss Shani to be a mommy anymore . . . I just want her to be my teacher!"

He got to bed without further incidence. We read our stories, he fell asleep almost before his head hit his blue pillow . . . But I have a feeling we'll be back to square one tomorrow morning. I hope "Miss Shani" can live with herself. Really, the nerve.

But if it doesn't go so well the next two days, I may have to teach him Life Lesson #159: Skipping school. A special trip is already planned to see his best buddy on Friday after school so maybe we'll just leave a little early . . . SSSSHHHHH . . . Don't tell :)

Update: Lots of tears this morning. I had a tough time keeping it together myself. He said he was going to miss me and didn't want to go even as he was sobbing down the hallway without me. It was very hard. But when I went to pick him up at lunchtime he was smiling and said "I love school again! and I didn't even cry at recess!"

He likes the sub although he says that when "Miss Shani" comes back he's going to tell her that he missed her. He made a couple of new friends today and said that he and one other little boy had a great time at recess playing together. "I even introduced myself and told him my name! And he said he already knew it!" Amazing, isn't it? I was in knots all morning and he was making friends with his gorgeous smile.

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War is NOT a Solution for Terrorism by Howard Zinn

This was posted on Michael Moore's website yesterday. (Thanks for the heads up, Deb!) You all know how I feel about the words of Howard Zinn . . . if I believed in religion - I kid, I kid. But I do believe in a lot of what he has to say. So enjoy!!

THERE IS SOMETHING important to be learned from the recent experience of the United States and Israel in the Middle East: that massive military attacks, inevitably indiscriminate, are not only morally reprehensible, but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out.

The United States, in three years of war, which began with shock-and-awe bombardment and goes on with day-to-day violence and chaos, has been an utter failure in its claimed objective of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq. The Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon has not brought security to Israel; indeed it has increased the number of its enemies, whether in Hezbollah or Hamas or among Arabs who belong to neither of those groups.

I remember John Hersey's novel, ``The War Lover," in which a macho American pilot, who loves to drop bombs on people and also to boast about his sexual conquests, turns out to be impotent. President Bush, strutting in his flight jacket on an aircraft carrier and announcing victory in Iraq, has turned out to be much like the Hersey character, his words equally boastful, his military machine impotent.

The history of wars fought since the end of World War II reveals the futility of large-scale violence. The United States and the Soviet Union, despite their enormous firepower, were unable to defeat resistance movements in small, weak nations -- the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan -- and were forced to withdraw.

Even the ``victories" of great military powers turn out to be elusive. Presumably, after attacking and invading Afghanistan, the president was able to declare that the Taliban were defeated. But more than four years later, Afghanistan is rife with violence, and the Taliban are active in much of the country.

The two most powerful nations after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union, with all their military might, have not been able to control events in countries that they considered to be in their sphere of influence -- the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and the United States in Latin America.

Beyond the futility of armed force, and ultimately more important, is the fact that war in our time inevitably results in the indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people. To put it more bluntly, war is terrorism. That is why a ``war on terrorism" is a contradiction in terms. Wars waged by nations, whether by the United States or Israel, are a hundred times more deadly for innocent people than the attacks by terrorists, vicious as they are.

The repeated excuse, given by both Pentagon spokespersons and Israeli officials, for dropping bombs where ordinary people live is that terrorists hide among civilians. Therefore the killing of innocent people (in Iraq, in Lebanon) is called accidental, whereas the deaths caused by terrorists (on 9/11, by Hezbollah rockets) are deliberate.

This is a false distinction, quickly refuted with a bit of thought. If a bomb is deliberately dropped on a house or a vehicle on the grounds that a ``suspected terrorist" is inside (note the frequent use of the word suspected as evidence of the uncertainty surrounding targets), the resulting deaths of women and children may not be intentional. But neither are they accidental. The proper description is ``inevitable."

So if an action will inevitably kill innocent people, it is as immoral as a deliberate attack on civilians. And when you consider that the number of innocent people dying inevitably in ``accidental" events has been far, far greater than all the deaths deliberately caused by terrorists, one must reject war as a solution for terrorism.

For instance, more than a million civilians in Vietnam were killed by US bombs, presumably by ``accident." Add up all the terrorist attacks throughout the world in the 20th century and they do not equal that awful toll.

If reacting to terrorist attacks by war is inevitably immoral, then we must look for ways other than war to end terrorism, including the terrorism of war. And if military retaliation for terrorism is not only immoral but futile, then political leaders, however cold-blooded their calculations, may have to reconsider their policies.

Howard Zinn is a professor emeritus at Boston University and the author of the forthcoming book "A Power Governments Cannot Suppress" to be published by City Lights Books in December 2006.

P.S. This was too freaky not to make note of. Just after I posted this entry I clicked on the URL to see how it looked and this is the quote that came up under my "Daily Emerson" quote box:
"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."
(At least my interests are consistent!!)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Anniversary Ripe for Exploitation

It's now been five years since the United States experienced the worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil. And while I believe in remembering the day and the nearly 3,000 people who were murdered that day in the name of religious extremism, I find I am filled with skepticism. Five years later I cannot imagine, and there are times when I truly try, the carnage that was seen by people who survived that day - the images of death and destruction, the smells, the panic in not being able to catch your breath because your lungs have filled with dust and soot - the pain of knowing that for some reason you made it out while others didn't. September 11, 2001 was truly one of the worst days in the history of this nation and yet I am sickened by the way it has been exploited.

I am conflicted because while I want to "never forget," I am disgusted by the in your face exploitation of this particular anniversary. I am sickened by the television movie playing on ABC right now that is filled with inaccuracies and outright lies about the events that led up to the 9/11 attacks. I am disgusted at how the U.S. government is using this anniversary to rally its citizens into believing that "staying the course" in Iraq will protect us from another devastating attack by terrorists. I was saddened as I watched the national anthem being sung at the NY Giants-Colts Sunday Night football game while images of the former World Trade Center site were among images of Rudy Guliani proudly singing the anthem while New York firefighters and police officers were brought to tears and the scene capped off by the mandatory flyovers of military helicopters and jets. Add the screaming fans who were a hootin' and a hollerin' - it couldn't have been written any better if it were the closing scene in a propaganda film.

But wait a minute, wasn't it set up as such?

I just hate feeling manipulated and this is just another example of the grotesque exploitation of human tragedies. These anniversaries, they are nothing but a way to make the rest of us feel better about not thinking about those who died on 9/11 the other 364 days of the year. I mean, if you were lucky enough not to have lost someone close to you on that day then can you honestly say that you give the event all that much thought until you start being bombarded by it through the media? Don't you think that those who did lose loved ones are reminded everyday about their loss and yet, they must go on with their lives and that's what they do. They don't need to be hounded by reporters every year to report on how they're doing; They're alive, they're living, they're taking care of their children and they're making a life for themselves without their husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, aunt, close friend because they have no choice. They aren't to be gawked at and exploited for their pain so that Dubyah and his crew can justify the mess they've gotten this country into.

And what a mess it is . . . What have we learned over the last five years regarding this most horrific of acts? Well, first of all, we've learned that it wasn't the unexpected sucker punch to the gut that our government first wanted us to believe it was. There was information in the hands of the people who had the power to do something about it stating that there was potential for terrorists to use commercial airliners in an attack against the U.S. on U.S. soil. Now whether they could have ever figured out the targets or the precise manner in which the planes would be used - I don't know. But what burns me the most is being lied to. We were told, and still some believe, that the U.S. government could have never imagined such an attack. Of course they couldn't have imagined it, they didn't have to!! The information was there and it remained on a desk, the "I'll get to it later after I get back from my ranch in Crawford or my quaint little getaway at Camp David," pile. So, yes, they made a mistake in not taking the threats seriously, but what I find unacceptable is that they lied to the people of this country about it instead of owning up.

Second, we've learned that there NEVER was any connection between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. How many times did we hear after September 11, 2001 that Hussein had aided the terrorists and that it was in the best interest of this country to topple Hussein's regime in order to prevent future attacks? Too many to count. So we went to Iraq looking for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and what we got was a civil war and the perfect environment, (read "chaos") for training new terrorists.

Afterall, wasn't Dubyah's rationale to go where the terrorists are: Afghanistan and Iraq. But wait a minute, what about Madrid a couple of years back? There are terrorists in Spain apparently. And, hold on, what about he two dozen arrested in Great Britain a few weeks back on suspicion of planning another terrorist attack using jetliners? Are we going to invade London next? The problem is that the War on Terror doesn't exist because it is a war against an ideology just as the terrorists on 9/11 declared a war on the U.S. because of its ideologies. They weren't able to destroy the good old "American Way" just as we are unable to stop religious extremism.

And just one more thing I'd like to point out - we've learned over the past five years that the government appreciates the service of the emergency responders and countless volunteers who worked to rescue anyone they could find in those first few days after the attacks so much so that we made t-shirts and hats in their honor, set up scholarship funds and the like, but when the survivors started coming down with strange respiratory illnesses they were told to find help on their own.

They were told that their maladies had nothing to do with their participation in the rescue operations even though there was dust and dirt that covered these brave men and women from head to toe and there were no respirators handed out in those first few days - and still they worked. These men and women have suffered great physical and sometimes emotional stress and pain because of what they saw and what they took into their bodies simply by breathing in the middle of so much rubble and they were told, "It's not our problem," by the government that's supposed to honor and revere their great service. Only in recent days and weeks has there been any progress made in acknowledging that many of these emergency workers are ill because of their work in and among the rubble of September 11th.

I, too, remember hearing on the radio that the World Trade Center buildings had been hit by an airplane, not once but twice, and that officials believed we were "under attack." I remember thinking that it couldn't be true that something else was going on, that there must be some other explanation. I was glued to my television with the rest of the country as the Twin Towers fell and we all knew that thousands of people had lost their lives that day . . . I remember the strange, peaceful silence in the skies during those first few days following the tragedy when all airplanes were grounded. I remember my immediate look to the skies, in the middle of an English Literature class, with all of my classmates when we heard that first airplane fly overhead.

And I will stop and remember those that died on this day, five years ago; I will remember their families especially who have endured another year without their loved ones and have had to struggle to find some way to carry on; I will remember all those that still suffer with nightmares and illness because of what they experienced that day and those weeks following; I will remember to hold my government responsible for insuring that this doesn't happen again and I will hold them responsible for lying to me, for exploiting my emotions, for believing that I was not smart enough to see what was really going on.

I will remember it this November when I vote . . . and I will make the blackest of marks so there is no mistake in November 2008 when I vote for a President that will take the citizens of this country seriously and realize that he works for us; that he isn't a King; that he has to follow the laws of this land; that he can't lie to me over and over again and expect me to take it lying down. I'm tired of remembering, but holding no one accountable.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Roger Waters Doesn't Disappoint

My husband and I and a few close friends went to Great Woods last night (I know it's called the Tweeter Center now and has been for quite a few years, but it will always be Great Woods to me!) to see Roger Waters and it was an amazing night. Waters, for anyone who doesn't know, is the former bass player and songwriter from Pink Floyd penning masterpieces The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon. Now I wasn't very familiar with Pink Floyd until I met my husband and he introduced to not only the music, but the backstories behind the songs and the tensions between the band members that eventually led up to the breakup. I have become a Floyd fan by marriage (to borrow a phrase from one of my dearest friends who I was privileged to share last evening with) and have now been to two of Waters' shows and last night was by far the better of the two.

I don't know whether some of my pleasure can be linked to my becoming more familiar with his music over the years between shows, but I am more inclined to believe it had to do with the material he chose to play and the striking images that were projected onto the enormous video screens. You see, Waters is a rebel one could say, and having lost his father in World War II he is very much against armed conflict of any kind. Which in turn led to some very powerful music - "Leaving Beirut," "The Fletcher Memorial Home," "Perfect Sense" and one of the best encores I've ever experienced with "Vera," "Bring the Boys Back Home," and "Comfortably Numb."

Waters' biggest political statement of the night, which was not mentioned in the Boston Globe's review of the show (although I did enjoy Sarah Rodman's review and think she was spot on with her comments) came when a giant, inflatable pig was released into the night (my party was speculating for quite some time after the show about where it would finally land) and the video screens said "Don't be led to slaughter. Vote Democrat in 2008." (Now I will have to admit here that I could no longer wait to use the ladies room and so did not in fact see the great pig of which my husband could not stop talking about when I got back. You would have thought Dave Gilmore had shown up while I was gone! I do wish I had seen it though :)

So all in all a great night with great music, great friends and some time to spend as myself and not someone's mommy or wife or daughter - just a fan, among thousands of others, sharing a love for music.

I will leave you with the following excerpt from "Leaving Beirut" as an illustration of the powerful poetry of music I experienced last night:

Are these the people that we should bomb
Are we so sure they mean us harm
Is this our pleasure, punishment or crime
Is this a mountain that we really want to climb
The road is hard, hard and long
Put down that two by four
This man would never turn you from his door
Oh George! Oh George!
That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small
. . .

Is gentleness too much for us
Should gentleness be filed along with empathy
We feel for someone else's child
Every time a smart bomb does its sums and gets it wrong
Someone else's child dies and equities in defence rise
America, America, please hear us when we call
You got hip-hop, be-bop, hustle and bustle
You got Atticus Finch
You got Jane Russell
You got freedom of speech
You got great beaches, wildernesses and malls
Don't let the might, the Christian right, fuck it all up
For you and the rest of the world

Roger Waters, circa 2005

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Nostalgia, Reality, Change and Growth - Whew!

(Get comfortable ... This is a long one :)

So Cheryl's post from the other day (and the conversation we had on the phone Saturday night) has got me thinking - a lot. And I can't stop. So instead of having it all continue to just do donuts inside my head I thought I'd put it in black and white - a release of sorts.

We talked about how people change; how people from our collective past aren't the same as they used to be; how sometimes people change for the better and sometimes not; how it's hard to sometimes accept people after they have changed, especially when they mean so much to us and we miss the "old" relationship as it used to be . . .

So first of all, I think that there's a difference between change and growth. Semantics maybe, but worthy of note. I think that change is inevitable. We all change whether it is intentional, whether it is a positive or negative change - human beings by nature are not static. Therefore, change is frequent and we are always adapting whether the change happens to us directly or to those around us.

Yet, I think growth is more rare. Growth represents something positive - the plant growing in the direction of the sun - the human soul opening up and taking in the light in order to thrive. I think that through the experiences I've had and the choices I've made I have grown. Not without struggle, mind you, and not necessarily on a regular basis or without regression - but I like the person I am becoming now much more than the person I was 10 years ago and a little more than the person I was five years ago.

Ten years ago I was lost, I was confused and in my state of uncertainty and insecurity I made some hard decisions and some pretty "interesting" choices. I mingled with some questionable people and rebellion was my main focus. But in my exhaustion to be something I wasn't, I realized that I was lonely; I was trying to make myself believe that I was happy and carefree; I was trying to convince myself that this was the life I had chosen and therefore the life I wanted to lead. And yet I was lonelier than I ever had been in my entire life.

That's when I started to grow. I nurtured my wilted spirit; I read A LOT; I began to write again; I opened up my heart and began to listen to it and the answer it gave me was to accept myself, to love who I am and that that love would bring the right people into my life if I would just trust it . . . Not too long after that I asked out the man who would become my husband :)

I am still growing. I've been a little stagnant over the last few years - busy taking care of the basic needs and survival of two small children who were completely dependent upon me, getting little sleep and not much "spare" time for personal, spiritual growth. But my boys are growing now and it's given me the time to do the same. My spirit has been revived and once again I have found a great light source in reading and writing.

But not all change is good. Sometimes we make poor choices, we treat the people that we love often the worst and we take advantage of our most treasured friends because ... well, just because; because we are reacting to a change that we don't know how to handle. And so we tell ourselves that we're OK. We tell ourselves that we're happy and that we're in control of the situation. We tell ourselves that everyone else is wrong in advising us to slow down or to take a step back and think - We recognize we're different now and put it on everyone else to adjust to our change. And they will, won't they, if they truly love us?

But that's where nostalgia comes in. Change isn't just hard to deal with on a personal level, it's sometimes a hard adjustment to make for those who love us - especially if that change seems to cause more harm than good in their eyes. They may be right. They may be wrong. But the hardest part is accepting someone after they have changed.

We treasure our relationships; they are what we live for and when a relationship changes, suddenly we become stressed, angry and lonely. We mourn for the relationship we once had. We yearn for the safety and security of the past, the comfort level, the familiarity; for the person we once knew.

But we can never go back. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing and yet it is also misleading. We do not remember things as they actually happened - we recall them, and the people within the memories, in the context of our own personal story - the history we have put together for ourselves. There are no facts in such a history, but interpretations which include embellishments and omissions.

So when we are faced with a new and sudden reality we find ourselves wishing for the "good times" to return, for the "old friend" we once knew to come back . . . and yet those memories never really existed.

Then what do we do? We can only accept people as they are. We must accept what they present to us today and believe them when they tell us that this is who they are now - no matter how much it contradicts our memories of them. We must learn to adapt in whatever way is best for ourselves so that we may continue to grow and not become stagnant, lying in wait for the past to return; because no matter how much we wish and hope and pray for it's reappearance - the past is gone and so are the people as we remember them.

Therefore do not try and mold your truth based upon what others may say or do in reaction to you. Do not alter your truth as a reaction to what others say or do to you. Live your truth and let yourself grow.

RTT: College Degrees Online and On Demand

We've all noticed the BOOM in online, aka distance learning, education. What started as taking a few freshman level, lecture-heavy classes online moderated by a professor through email or online bulletin boards has morphed into a multi-million dollar market where new "universities" are popping up to offer bachelor's, master's and even PhD's online without stepping foot on a single piece of lush, green university grass.

And to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it.

While I understand that making education available online makes it more accessible - afterall you can get your "lectures" 24 hours a day and send your class work via email in an instant - I think that such a system is lacking. Bulletin boards and email are nice for sharing ideas, but it's not the same as live, electric classroom discussions and debate. Absent are the voices and, I believe, much of the emotion invovled in a good classroom discussion.

And yet there are instantces where I think an online course is a great solution for those who have difficulty making it to a university campus in between work schedules, family commitments, etc. Classes that are heavy on lectures (which can be read just as easily as listened to) and focus more on providing introductory information about a particular subject area rather than on specialized information and topics that are up for debate. You know, the freshman type classes that are great for young people who are experiencing college for the first time to take inside the classroom, but more of a hassle for those of us who have our own "real world" education to bring to the table.

But I'm just not sure I'm comfortable with getting an entire degree online. I think that having direct access to a professor, being able to sit down and have an open discussion in real time, asking questions that can be answered immediately while reading or discussing is what a college degree should be about. It's not just about a piece of paper.

It's the experience. The acquisition of knowledgement not just througha computer screen or a textbook, but through interacting with other human beings who are not like you, but have many of the same dreams and goals as you do. It's about learning from a professor who has spent many years to become a master in his expertise so that he may pass his knowledge onto you.

So I'm just not convinced that an online degree is worth as much as a traditional degree even if the pieces of paper look the same when you frame them for display above your desk.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Can the Earth Start Spinning Again?

The world has finally seen Suri. Can we all get on with our lives now?

Vanity Fair has a 22-page spread featuring the newest Hollywood princess and her ultra-famous mother and father in this month's issue - and no she doesn't have pointy ears or facial deformities ... she looks like a happy, healthy little girl. (Although I did hear that her parents have decided to raise her in the ways of Scientology ... oh well, we all carry one or two scars from our childhoods.)

So the mystery has been solved. Kate was indeed pregnant. She did have a baby girl. And apparently everyone is doing well.

Let us move on to the next celebrity and see how close our prying eyes can get . . .

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Something(s) to Think About

I know I've already gone on (and on) about my current favorite book, Ireland: A Novel, but I just can't help myself. It's that good!

Anyway, I had copied out a few brilliant passages last night so that I can refer to them at my leisure and there are two particular quotes that I find myself thinking a lot about today. So I'm going to repeat both phrases today like a mantra in hopes that I get a response of some sort. And if the mood so strikes you, I wish the same for you: (today, tomorrow, anytime)

"If you don't use your power, it will leave you for someone who will." ---Irish Proverb

"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

I'll let you know if I have any great moments of inspiration . . . :)

Monday, September 4, 2006

A Great Friend is Lost

I can't believe it, but Steve Irwin - aka "The Crocodile Hunter" - has been killed off the coast of Queensland. He suffered a fatal wound to the heart from the tail of a stingray - strangely poetic considering he had given his entire life to wildlife and the pursuit of helping them to flourish.

Apparently it is rare for a stingray to impose a fatal wound, but Irwin was a rare man. As one mourner put it, ""Steve, from all God's creatures, thank you. Rest in peace."

Here is the story from the Associated Press:
Steve Irwin, the hugely popular Australian television personality and conservationist known as the "Crocodile Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. He was 44.

Irwin was at Batt Reef, off the remote coast of northeastern Queensland state, shooting a segment for a series called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he swam too close to one of the animals, which have a poisonous bard on their tails, his friend and colleague John Stainton said.

"He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart," said Stainton, who was on board Irwin's boat at the time.

Crew members aboard the boat, Croc One, called emergency services in the nearest city, Cairns, and administered CPR as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later, Stainton said.

Irwin was famous for his enthusiasm for wildlife and his catchword "Crikey!" in his television program "Crocodile Hunter." First broadcast in Australia in 1992, the program was picked up by the Discovery network, catapulting Irwin to international celebrity.

He rode his image into a feature film, 2002's "The Crocodile Hunters: Collision Course" and developed the wildlife park that his parents opened, Australia Zoo, into a major tourist attraction.

"The world has lost a great wildlife icon, a passionate conservationist and one of the proudest dads on the planet," Stainton told reporters in Cairns. "He died doing what he loved best and left this world in a happy and peaceful state of mind. He would have said, 'Crocs Rule!'"

Prime Minister John Howard, who hand-picked Irwin to attend a gala barbecue to honor President Bush when he visited in 2003, said he was "shocked and distressed at Steve Irwin's sudden, untimely and freakish death."

"It's a huge loss to Australia," Howard told reporters. "He was a wonderful character. He was a passionate environmentalist. He brought joy and entertainment and excitement to millions of people."

Irwin, who made a trademark of hovering dangerously close to untethered crocodiles and leaping on their backs, spoke in rapid-fire bursts with a thick Australian accent and was almost never seen without his uniform of khaki shorts and shirt and heavy boots.

His ebullience was infectious and Australian officials sought him out for photo opportunities and to promote Australia internationally.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Book Review for Ireland:A Novel

I have just finished one of the most amazing books. Ireland: A Novel by Frank Delaney intricately weaves together several tales with Ireland itself fulfilling the role of setting and supporting character. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the plot and originality of the story, but the writing was spectacular in its lush descriptions of ancient and modern day Ireland, as well as the very soil and green (as you've never seen before) grass of the island.

The story begins one evening with the visit of an Irish storyteller to the O'Mara household. Ronan, the only child of the house, becomes immediately enthralled with the old man whose station in life is to travel the country telling and retelling the rich history of Ireland. On this first night where we meet the Storyteller we hear the tale of an ancient and awe-inspiring burial site at Newgrange. Ronan hangs on the Storyteller's every word and puts every image and syllable to memory. But Ronan is not the only one who is listening, several townspeople have filled the O'Mara's sitting room to hear the magical tales and so it goes for three evenings.

The morning following the Storyteller's tale about St. Patrick, Ronan's mother has a falling out with the visitor over accused blasphemy. She asks him to leave her household at once - without saying goodbye to Ronan. His departure sets into motion a journey by the then 9-year-old boy that lasts well into his adulthood. Ronan's journey brings him to many corners of the Emerald Isle during his life, coast to coast, in search of the Storyteller. Along the way he learns the history of his beloved country, even more about the love the Irish people have for a good tale and the people who tell them and most of all, Ronan learns about his own family heritage and where he comes from.

While the story of Ronan's journey drives the story forward, the tales that we hear told by the Storyteller and his friends are like a separate storyline altogether. We learn of kings and queens, Viking battles, English occupation, the Great Hunger that drove so many millions to emigrate and several more millions to the grave, and of course, the Easter Uprising of 1916 that led to England retreating from Dublin and giving up all but the very Northern most part of the island. The history is rich, the language like music and I can still hear the voice of the Storyteller echoing in my head as he told of the bullets breaking windows and the images of death permanently burned into his eyes on that bloody, Easter holiday weekend.

I have completely fallen in love with this book. Not only is the story compelling, but the way in which Delaney connects each character with history and illustrates how each person is somehow connected to his neighbor is amazing. But most amazing of all is that by the time you get to the end of the book (and it is a lengthy one) the resolution leads you to recall all that you have read from page one. Each event depends upon all of the events that precede it, both in history and in the novel, and Delaney seamlessly constructs this intricate web without one misstep.

Delaney writes not only a wonderful "oral" history of his land, but provides the reader with one of the most human stories I've read in quite some time. Ireland: A Novel has been added, with great pleasure, to my personal Top Five Best Novels list and I believe, if you give it the time it deserves, you will be greatly impressed as well.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

MommyBloggers: A Look at Community in 2006

As I do research for what I hope turns into the novel I always say I'm going to write - Yes, I will be trying NaNoWriMo in November and for anyone who is interested in learning more about that can click on the pencil marking the countdown to NaNo at the top of the page - I stumbled upon the following blog entry from Misha at "The Wallpaper of My Mind." The entry is titled "What We See Over the New Backyard Fence," and it's her viewpoint about what it means to be a mother in this day and age and how blogging has provided her with not only an outlet for her writing, but a way to connect with other moms who blog - Mommy Bloggers.

It's wonderfully written and offers a few insights I had not thought of. I also like that Misha is unapologetic in sharing her everyday, some would say "routine" life, and the milestones and setbacks of her two young children. Misha is the epitomy of this new Mommy Blogger movement and I have been amazed at the number of blogs I have found, by women, blogging about their families. Apparently nap time can be very productive for us moms, as long as we can stay awake ourselves during such peaceful, precious moments.

I don't want to say too much, but suffice it to say if you're a mom, or even a dad, I think you'll find her post informative and it will certainly give you a few things to think about. Stay at home moms are often looked upon as taking the easy road, of wasting their talents by spending 24 hours a day with their children and yet, SAHM's are finding a way to come together and support one another even if they are separated by hundreds and thousands of miles. Just another example of the internet not being ALL bad.

Thank you, Misha for putting into words what so many of us are thinking! (I'm sure I'll be posting some thoughts of my own very soon in response to what you've written.)