Friday, December 29, 2006

Lessons I learned on the last Friday in December

It's easy to get five fruits and vegetables per day, if you start with two fruits at breakfast. Satya: banana, cranberries, chicken vegetable soup, french fried sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, fresh orange juice...I think there is a growth spurt in her immediate future.

It's easy to love yourself, if you spend some quality time at a mirror. Kuruna: yesterday, ten minutes at the science museum two-way mirror, giving his three best sides lots of flirty loving kisses, smiles, and making the best possible effort to hold hands.

You can skate on a frozen "vernal pool" even if it cracks under your skates. Satya and I skated for an hour on two inches of ice cube in our "back yard." Perfect. No one else to worry about, no fees, no risk of falling in!

The second time getting glasses is no sweat. Kuruna: breezes in to the optometrist, tries on the glasses, (flirts a little with himself in the mirror), decides, "I like new glasses," and we're off.

Turning lights on and off (and on and off and on) really is amazingly funny, if you look at it from three feet off the floor.

More on Star Mints

I know them as Star Mints. Apparently this is an error. They are Star Brites Mints. However, since the manufacturer feels it necessary to spell its middle name phonetically instead of in English, I feel under no obligation to include it here. In fact, I guess the brand name doesn't matter except that Star - Mints are ubiquitous. To my knowledge, every after dinner mint I have had has been a Star Mint. And, to their credit, the experience has been consistently satisfying.

Need I describe them? Sweet, tasty, small, ever so piquant, and never sticky. After bar-b-que, or smoked salmon, Pad Thai, or garlic chicken, it's just the thing to finish off a meal when every one else is going for the chocolate sin cake.

When I have been virtuous, turning down the abundant opportunities for gluttony-bordering-on-obscenity so prevalent at American restaurants, I console myself that there will be a friendly Star Mint at the door bidding me farewell. As I watch cake, ice cream, mousse, flan, whiskey, and dessert wine arrive at the table for my compatriots while I sip tea or coffee, I am lighthearted, knowing my sweet lifeline will be there. When we have donned our coats, when we head to the car, when most of us are stuffed to the gills. . . I will dip my hand into the courtesy bowl for a mint. And, it will be there. It must be there.

I can't go on a this particular moment about how I feel when there are no mints, no bowl. There might as well, at such a moment, be no restaurant, no meal. . . I'll come back to this when I have the strength.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Explaining the list...starmints

Every restaurant should have after-dinner mints for their guests. These should be peppermint flavored (not spearmint, not cinnamon, not orange!). This is not complicated, though you'd think so by the state of things. I have even offered to set up a foundation in my will to help restaurants overcome the daunting logistics of complying with this most basic of dining needs.

Oak Leaf Daisies

Channelling my New Orleans past. That's what surely explains why Satya burst out with the above name for her "girl band" today. She will be the fiddle-playing lead singer of the Oak Leaf Daisies someday, building on her Louisiana heritage of zydeco, Mardi Gras Indian, jazz, blues, Maple Leaf music. She doesn't know this yet.

She's still learning "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" on the violin and belting out Indigo Girls angry chick tunes.

She's still fixated on princesses and Barbie. She's five. Give her some time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Second day back...

...and already a new look.

I promised myself I would get some sleep. I also promised myself I would read ahead in my case books. Alas, adding new features and new color schemes to my blog seemed too important to pass up tonight.

In case the above comment paints me as a total airhead, I will add that my other activities today included reading the New York Times and discussing global climate change survival strategies with one of the few space architects on this planet and the world's best photo curator and photo historian.

O.K., but the real takeaway from today was that Satya loves Daddy more than me (at least she felt it important to let me know that). It was not the first time I had heard it, and I took pleasure in assuring her that her feelings were perfectly fine with me and that it did not change how much I love and am connected to her (though I find it amazing that it doesn't).

As we spoke, I remembered when I felt exactly the same way -- loving my father more than my mom and feeling so badly about it-- when I was exactly her age.

Over the years, the strong and certain bonds I had with my parents are so much changed and attenuated like spider webs stretched thin by perpetual breezes. But in the last few days conversations I have had with each of them have reassured me that my connections to them remain as lifelines. Attenuated as they may be, they are well-travelled, strong and reliable.

A week ago, as I prepared for and sat for exams, my parents did the proverbial circling of the waggons. Mom came to "help out" for two weeks. (Help out means, "take over care of the kids, cooking, shopping, cleaning and still have time and energy to listen to your whiny law school student-daughter cry about how hard life is"). Papa, the lawyer, called every day, sometimes several times, to tutor me on civil procedure and contract law or to ask how study for torts and con-law was going. As dark and lonely as those two weeks got, I knew I had the strongest web of support around me.

Satya won't know about webs and unconditional love for some years. I hope she will feel it, though, well before she can describe it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

a christmas story

When I was younger, Santa used to leave me the most fantastic notes about adventures in the North Pole and the mischievous dark elves. How delighted I was to see, upon reading his letter to my daughter this morning, that the tradition continues!

December 24, 2006...I could have used a smart girl like you at the North Pole this year! We had quite a lick of trouble! Have I told you about the dark elves? Well, they are super mischievous and always trying to ruin Christmas. And to add to the difficulty, they give Polar Bear such a hard time, I wind up having to take care of him, too, on top of saving Christmas. Well, I am getting ahead of myself. LetÂ’s see, where to begin?

After last year's’ catastrophe, Mrs. Claus and I thought we would take Polar Bear down to Antarctica for some respite. You know it'’s summer down there when we are having winter? Not that you would know it from the cold, but hey, it's not the North Pole and there are no dark elves there!! So, we thought it would be a good trip. And, it was.

While we were down there, though, the dark elves got into Polar Bear's home and wrecked his lego set. They also painted the walls with finger-paints. The worst was that they used his favorite collection of herbal tea in an all-night game of mushy cushy! We were gone for a month. When we returned home in February ready to begin preparing for this year'’s Christmas, we found a huge mess, instead. Polar Bear, besides being devastated, was also quite mad, as you can imagine. He began to plot revenge.

Well, this was quite a mess for us at the North Pole because, as you probably know, we depend on Polar Bear to do all of the heavy lifting in the Workshop. He is also useful in getting things off of the high shelves. Without Polar Bear, much of the elves'’ work comes to a stop.

Of course the other job of great importance is that Polar Bear stands guard at the Workshop to keep the dark elves from stealing everyone'’s toys! With Polar Bear indisposed, putting his house back in order, the dark elves could raid Santa'’s workshop as often as the wanted. Each night when the last elf left his toy work, the dark elves would sneak in. They would steal toys or paint them off colors or mix up parts. Each morning when my Santa elves returned, they would have to start all over again. We were getting nowhere!

I decided to pay Polar Bear a call at his house. I asked as politely as I could for Polar Bear to come back and do his duty as guard of the workshop. But he refused. He wanted all of his time to plan his attack on the dark elves. I begged and pleaded with him to come. Finally I demanded he stop his nonsense and SHOW UP! A few hours later a very pouty Polar Bear was back at the door of the workshop, and the visits from the dark elves stopped for a while.

Things were calm for all of us at the North Pole until one day in June when one of our elves, the chief elf, in fact, came to me to tell me that the Northern lights were missing! If you know that the Northern Lights are, you know that it is no small matter for them to be missing. Sure enough that night when I went to inspect, there was nothing but darkness where they used to be. The Northern Lights serve a particularly important function for us at the North Pole. For, they are the outlet of children'’s energy from all over the world. Children'’s laughter, their restlessness and even their frustration and anger all filter through the earth'’s crust to the vast ice fields of the North Pole where we all see them as beautiful rays of green purple and blue shimmering over the top of the world. The workshop is fed by this energy. So, too are the elves and even my sleigh fueled by the energy from the Northern Lights. Without the Lights, we can make it for a few days, but not much longer. We looked every where for them. Soon we were sure that we were doomed!

In the meantime, Polar Bear also came to me with problems of his own. I had little patience for his personal complaints, but listened anyway as Polar Bear read to me a list of all the items missing from his house since the dark elves'’ raid last January. Among the stolen items were 1200 barrels of finger paint (Polar bear likes to finger paint a lot) The interesting thing about this was the color. That is, the finger paint the dark elves had absconded with was all black and blue.

Polar bear was very sulky without his paint. One night, feeling especially sulky, he went out for a walk on the ice cap. He looked into the sky and there noticed what seemed to be a crack in the sky. It was an unusual thing, but it did seem to be a crack and growing wider and wider. Polar Bear had nothing better to do, so he walked to the horizon to check it out. There on the edge of the world, he reached out to the sky and scratched at it with his paw. At first his scratch removed only a chip, but second and third scratches revealed the truth of the matter. The Northern Lights weren'’t missing; they had been covered with tons of blue and black finger paint. Oh, those dastardly dark elves!

Polar Bear came trotting home with his good news. I congratulated him and sent him right back out, of course, with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge! It must have taken him a few days of scrubbing--made more tedious because he often had to return home to thaw out frozen buckets--to finally clean up the dark elves’ mess. By this time it was early August and we had only a few short months before we would have to start packing the sleigh!

Thanks to Polar Bear, though, we got the Workshop up and running and free from dark elf mischief. Once again this year, we have toys and clothes and food for boys and girlsrls everywhere. I'’ll have to think of somewhere nice to take Polar Bear this year. Quechee seems like a nice place. Perhaps we could stay at the Woodstock Inn. Do you think they take Polar Bears?

Gift from Finland

Go to YouTube to see the Helsinki Complaints choir. I found out about it from Marko Ahtisaari's blog (where else)?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

the cheering throng

Where are you people--who should be standing on the sidelines, by the bathtub, at the dinner table, in the "wayback" of the car--- attentively eavesdropping? If you were here with us, you would see such incredible progress! No, better, you would see heroic feats of courage and physical grace.
You would see Satya's expressiveness, dancing excerpts of the Nutcracker. You would hear her brilliant questions: "What do you most like about being human?" You would ponder her stunning edicts: "If someone creates a rule, then breaks the rule. It is not a rule anymore." You would see her kindness to Kuruna, in gentle songs and hilarious prat falls.
You would see Kuruna's perseverance, earnestly attempting Sign Language to expand his connections to the outside world. You would hear him put new words to old music and old words to new music. You would see him almost climbing onto his sister's bed, surely to get there tomorrow.
Every day brings 4 new moments of Glory for each of them. I want to give them a medal, shower them with applause. I want all the world to cheer them on as they push through every barrier in front of them. that even on days when (I am so tired that) I am not sure if I can go on, they know they can.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Crazy Busy

Oh. I thought I was out for a nice Sunday boat ride. Now I am falling over Niagara, and I think one of my contacts has fallen out.
Edward Hallowell, M.D. in his book, Crazy Busy, writes about the incredible amount of things women have to keep straight in the current era. The author, clearly after my own heart, entitles the short chapter "Why Women Have It Harder Than Men."
There is a "dizzying list of ...available targets" for my attention right now. I am getting ready for law school, filing paperwork, planning and adjusting the family budget, scheduling classes and prep classes and orientation, networking for next summer's internship, and reading law books.
At the same time, I am finishing three major documents for my current job - over 200 pages of information I must either write or assemble - all in the next 13 days.
On still the same days, I am helping Satya and Kuruna adjust to a new school and new routine. I am scheduling their doctor's appointments, making their lunches, planning activities for us before I vanish into law school.
...And yet still somewhere in this list I am trying to find time to help a friend campaign for Vermont House. The list, friends, goes on.
I know there are others who, with grace and ease, manage lives more complex, jobs more stressful. How?
So that takes care of the "falling over Niagara" part.
Now, to the lost "contact."
Besides the slightly overwhelming feeling I have about the speed with which life seems to be escaping my control, I am also panicked that I will not have the tools I need to get through these challenges (the contact) and that I will miss the details, in particular the quality, of life if I am too overwhelmed by the massive amounts of "stuff" I have to deal with.
My point? I don't know. I am too busy to come up with one.

Friday, June 16, 2006

mulling over law school

I start law school in the fall. My class is already starting to assemble via a Yahoo list-serv and (Ugh, dare i say it?!) a MySpace site. I have been reading through the posts with interest and -- truth be known-- some jealousy and uneasiness. They are all young and energetic. Many have dogs they love. They are talking about hobbies, outdoor recreation, language tutorials and house warming parties. They are recounting recent undergraduate degrees and internships at lawfirms.

I don't have a dog.

Why am I doing this? I wonder. As much as I know I am doing the right thing going to law school, I am full of doubt. How will I do? Will I really be able to gain the skills in writing I need? Will I be able to make law review? Can I compete. Do I have the stamina? Can I do it with two kids and a husband, to whom I am dedicated?

I wrote to a friend this morning about his research project on recovery in New Orleans. "You have overcome so many real barriers -- and sidestepped other apparent ones -- to not only make some important progress in your field, but also to make a difference in others lives." I recognized in my heart, immediately upon writing it, how much I wish that others will be able to say the same about me some day.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Before I began teaching "inner city" kids, I had no idea what it meant to be poor in America. Had you asked me to describe poverty, I would have been like a blind person with a sketch pad - able to draw an image but without the experience to conceive the picture nor the ability to understand what I had projected. By meeting "my" kids , hearing their stories, visiting their homes, I was able to grasp how little I knew, how little I could understand. I found an incredible respect for those who struggle in obscurity and in the shadow of American mass culture.
I am reminded of my transformation as I listen to the Right Wing Republicans this week propose the amendment banning gay marriage. What strikes me is how little these people understand about how most people live in our country. In particular the arguement that "every child should have a mother and a father." I think it would be a tremendous gift to our children to give each one a mother and a father. However, most do not have that now. Most live in divorced households or single mother households or mixed families with one parent or another, a grandparent, siblings, etc.
But let's say we could flash a magic wand and give the people "what the people want." How does one define a "mother" and a "father"?
Is it by their gender roles? My husband is a terrific "mother" to our children. He cooks, plays, dabs booboos...I am a pretty good father, bringing home the bacon and instituting appropriate discpline.
Do we define mothers and fathers by their physical make-up? Is a trangendered mother a "mother"?
What about mother and father substitutes?
How about this: Every kids gets a mother and father and grandmother and grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins. Let's make it a birthright, guaranteed by our Congress and Constitution. If they wind up with a couple of extra moms or dads, let's call it lagniappe.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fourth Amendment saved by USA Today?

(Warning...I am about to get un-Buddhist on you...If you think you will be offended, that's ok. Read on.)
Come-'on people when even USA Today becomes part of the "outraged liberal press," you've got to know something so obvious and beyond the bounds of reason must be going on in our government. Look, these guys are no Washington Post or NYTimes. The last time I stumbled over a USA Today it was in front of my hotel door and the lead story was about people who lose their jobs because they refuse to fly issue for a few people, but not earth shattering news...Now even they have discovered the NSA program.
The message..."GET OFF YOUR BUM, AMERICA! and STOP the MADNESS!"
Do people realize that phone records are used as court evidence all the time to establish patterns of activity and connections to others? Now, the government has our phone records without ever petitioning for a warrant.
This activity is not within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons...and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures...and no Warrants shall issue except upon probable cause." There is no probable cause here, the search is not specific to a criminal act or civil violation. I don't care that they may not be viewing the content of my communication. I do not give my government permission to view who I am calling or when. And so far as I know, I have not surrendered my freedom or heard my Miranda rights read to me. As someone who understands the capabilities of data mining, I know well that plenty can be construed by my phone record without seeing the content of the calls.
Can someone please tell Mr. Bush that "executive privilege" really means he is privileged to serve at the pleasure of the citizens of the United States? (I quote U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9, "No Title of Nobility shall be granted..."). And can someone please also inform the Democrats that they cannot run away from their responsibility to govern, using their minority status as an excuse. Maybe we could remind them that the core of all that is American is the triumph of the minority over its oppressor(s).
No kidding, all this, inspired by a USA Today article. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In answer to your question, Satya...

Space is the nickname we use for everything beyond our Earth's atmosphere. It is a good nickname because there is lot of it and it seems relatively empty from our point of view. Doesn't it look like there is a bunch of "space" between the stars in the sky? Don't we know there is a long distance or a lot of space between Earth and other planets, Earth and the Sun or our Solar System and other star systems?

The longer correct name for space depends on where in "space" you are talking about. "Interplanetary space" means the area of space within our solar system, roughly speaking the area from the Sun, in the middle, out to Pluto. Everything beyond Interplanetary space is correctly called "Outer space." (If you imagine your room, where your planets and stars are on the wall as the solar system, it may be easier to imagine the rest of our house as "outer space.")

In one way, space is empty. There is none of the air we need to breathe in space. In many other ways, space is full. There are organic molecules, blackbody radiation left over from the birth of the Universe, gas, plasma, dust, small meteors and space junk -- left over spaceships and trash from astronauts and satellites.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Living deep

Those who don't feel life pulling them like a river, those who don't drink dawn like a cup of spring water or take sunset like supper, those who don't want to change, let them sleep. ~Rumi
My brother, once a very little child to me, is now all grown up. I am so proud. I am so amazed. For he, more than anyone I have ever met embodies Joseph Campbell's admonition to follow your bliss.
He will be the commencement speaker when he graduates next month. He has just received a fellowship to study photography in Prague. He is dedicated to his work and his community. And, in my estimation is incredibly talented. Most importantly he is happy. And, that makes me ecstatic.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The emergence of little things

How glorious the emergence of little things on a cold spring morning! Ladybugs showing up on my windowsill and spiderlings hatching from well camouflaged egg sacs in my eves. Crocuses flowering from still grassless fields. Even the little child who now emerges so early to wake me from my slumber.
All of them a tribute to how powerful yet the counterinsurgency might be against the mis-anointed caretakers of this world: we human adults. Though it inevitably will mean my demise, I do wish for a day when the Ladybugs, the spiderlings, the crocus and the little children might be able to reach high enough to grasp the reins of power for more than a few fleeting moments in April.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kinda blue

A dear friend asked me today how I'm doing...

Parenting has its share of tragedies, large and small. The crises of parenting, I have discovered, are seldom the ones I expected were lurking in my future.

Sure, there are the major medical traumas with big names ending in "oma" or carrying some distinguished doctor's last name. We all react to those by jumping off a cliff, landing on a tarp covered in hornets, then sinking into a pit of quicksand for the duration of the illness.

Aside from the big scary illnesses are the ones that abruptly end one journey -- usually well-planned, "normal life" -- and begin another journey through unmarked territory. It is this kind of journey of which my friend and I spoke.

I am on such a journey. Kuruna is my Sherpa.*

So how am I doing? I'm just fine. In fact, in spite of managing a complex schedule of doctor's visits, procedures, therapists and developmental exercises; in spite of occasional bouts of wondering if people think I am crazy because I've gone off on some protective Mother Bear rage about access to care for Kuruna; even though if I see another lab slip demanding blood from my baby I am going to crumple in a heap; and regardless of how many more days or years I have to wait to have a diagnosis... I'm ok. I'm actually having fun.

Fun...following Kuruna up the stairs helping him raise each leg to the next stair and hearing him giggle as he pulls himself up along the railing. Fun, watching him psyche himself up to step off a curb by himself....hearing him insist on holding the spoon, admonishing me to let "Self!" do it... watching how excited he gets putting on a shirt on his own. I especially find joy in listening to him croon "Twinkle Twinkle" or "Spirit of Life" or hearing him hum the saxophone part to "All Blues" from Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. How many people get to take their journey with a Sherpa who hums Coltrane? In his Sherpa kind of way, he keeps to himself. I don't know much about my guide, even though he's my son. But the lack of banter and relative silence invites me to inward exploration where, ironically, I find insights about the world around us.

I sometimes wake in the morning thinking that I'll discover I've been dreaming and that everything has been restored to "normal-and-as-planned." However, I'm rarely blue, hopping along on this jivey journey with my jazzy soy-milk-loving stair-climbing guy.

*(I must acknowledge here that I am not on this journey with Kuruna only, but also with Satya and my hubby and our extended families, too. I couldn't make this journey without their incredible support. But these are my Buddha lessons, right? And, though we may travel the same road, our feet trod on different soil.)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A week of prophets, messiah's and great teachers

Moses, Buddha, Christ, my kids....I wrote to a friend this evening...Parenting, I am pretty sure, is the answer to everything, if you are willing to be open and humble and inquisitive and generous. My kids have taught me every worthwhile thing about the world I know. There are many things they have also tried to teach me that I haven't learned yet. My job is to pay better attention

Today I learned that the story of raising Lazarus from the dead is really cool to a Unitarian-Jewish-Buddhist-Christian four-year-old. I also learned that Handel's Messiah is as fun to share with a child as it is to discover for yourself. Handel, in his genius, used very short passages from the Bible for his libretto and the musical energy is so joyful, it's intoxicating.

Is all of this religion confusing to Satya, my mother asks. No, she doesn't miss a beat. She puts Christ in heaven, Buddha in Nirvana, Moses on the mountaintop, and sees no reason they can't all exist that way. After all, don't I always tell her every body is different? Why shouldn't their gods and beliefs be?

The only thing she is confused about is how to get Bush out of office and why he got there in the first place. There is a song late in the Messiah that borrows its text from Psalm 2: "
Why do the nations so furiously rage together? [and] why do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take consel together against the Lord, and against His Annointed.
Seeing those words today gave me hope that we may,
break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
I seldom quote scripture. But there are no atheists in a foxhole, right?
On that note, I'll sign off. It's 11:20 and I've just finished making the kids' Easter basket and a cake for Easter dinner tomorrow. We had Passover and my birthday this week, too. I am not sure when we slow down again, but I, at least am going to stop for the next six hours...Ok, at least slow down.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Learning as I be a Democrat

I attended a talk given by Vermont Lt. Governor candidate, Matt Dunne, about a week ago. As I listened to Matt--who has led the national Americorps-VISTA program, served in the Vermont Senate for 11 years and been involved in service in many other ways--what inspired me most was his call to service for all Vermonters. I think that, as much as anything, is something we Dems can hold up and hold on to. I am not sure, yet, how to craft the right sound bite, so be patient with my in-articulation! However, I've got an image:

Move-on has started a TV ad-campaign showing Republican "leaders" with their hands dyed red. I don't think I have to explain that theme. The list is seemingly endless...Delay, Cheney, Libby, Bush, Abramoff...and growing every day.

Dems on the other hand have hands that have been used in service. I think of hands that have reached out to help others in need - helping the elderly and working with hospice patients, cleaning up natural waterways of trash and other pollutants, constructing and painting houses after Katrina, stacking donated food at food banks, teaching children, holding anti-war picket signs, and yes, writing checks to charity (which by-the-way the disappearing middle class does in far greater percentage than the upper class: "Except for seniors, upper middle class and middle rich filers are nearly half as generous as everyone else," according to at least one study I have read).

Our hands are "dirty" in a good way; they are strong, callaused, caring and stand ready for the next opportunity to serve our fellow citizens. They are ready to pick up the pieces of Iraq. They are ready to shake the hands of a new generation of activists. They are strong enough to do the hard work we need to clean this mess up!

(photo fatal Cleopatra on flikr)
I anticipate the reaction from Republicans - that they are volunteers, too. Yes. Their constituents may be. But it is not what their party is about. It is what OUR party is about. Just as the Republicans think they can co-opt Christianity, I think we can co-opt Service, connectedness, helping not only our "neighbors" but also reaching out to those who are beyond our neighborhoods.

Anyway... I have more thoughts on what we are "for" in terms of issues and platform. I too have been dissatified by our Party's lack of vision on this front. I have to admit, though, that as I work on creating positive statements about what we stand for, I find it very tough going. I'll keep you updated, if I hit on anything profound.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring Cleaning

It's here. The warm weather energizes us. The Sun makes us manic. We are busy bees, birds, ants, beavers...chucking out the tired, the old, the cluttered.
Yesterday, we made four boxes of clothes to donate to a couple of charities and to send off to friends' kids.
We also made plans and wishes for the spring and summer. What advnetures we planned! We'll go on hikes; we'll go to amusement parks; we'll walk or run in races benefiting cancer patients; we'll make art. Soon we'll color eggs.
This morning we woke and set the clocks ahead. Even time is telling us, "Get moving! You're already late!"
"Hurry, up!" Satya says to me. (She is sitting right next to me as I type). It's time to go for the first bike ride of the year.
This is the true season of renewal and resolution.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Kids' intestinal tracts are extremly resilient

I really won't elaborate too much on this one, except to say that given the variety 'foreign objects' that have made their way through Kuruna's digestive tract and have evidenced themselves to me (forgive the verbiage) without any signs of distress to his system, I am checking 'swallowing dangers' off the list of things to worry about -- for now.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Would Gandhi have embraced a cyber-based legal system?

I spent Saturday night re-watching Gandhi. I have resolved this year to read all of his writings - unfortunately haven't gotten through any yet. Ok, I haven't bought any, either. Somehow, I feel like buying books on Gandhi from is counter-intuitive.

I just got an article from my bro about what happened to prisoners in New Orleans and Mississippi during and post -Katrina. I think I am going to vomit. (The article basically chronicles the abuse and neglect of incarcerated children and adults--many arrested without charge-- during this period.)
I don't understand how humans can systematically destroy other humans this way...I don't know where to begin to address the cruelty that exists in our prison "system."

I was reading this weekend a First Monday article about the growing use of Internet / SW based Online Dispute Resolution in the cyber world - where most of the process is automated. I wonder whether we could take care of some of the backlog of criminal cases this way.

No really. How much worse would a computer interface be for a black prisoner in the South than a disinterested public defender in front of a racially biased judge with a backlog of thousands of cases?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Who??? is the Surgeon General?

I was writing a comment to Sassypants on her blog post about Sex Ed, much on my mind as my four year old begins her journey as a sexual being.
So I have thought for a long time as I wrote in September that the ideal sex ed for teens -- especially girls -- would "consist mostly of my showing all of my stretch marks (no, they do not become silvery almost invisible "trophies") and discussing the joys of morning sickness, sleep deprivation (yes, I am still talking about pregnancy) and 'sharing' space within your own body that you never really thought you would have to sublet."
I agree that discussing the awkwardness of the sexual encounter (What's your name again? How many partners? Ever treated for an STD? Birth control? You're into WHAT???) would also go a long way both in prevention of teen pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy and in promotion of good sexual health -- mental and physical -- among our young people. I have given up on the rest of us. So, you write something up. I'll present it to Bill Frist and ...who is out Surgeon General these days??? Oh, Carmona. Yeah, there's a name we've heard a lot in the news during our "National healthcare crisis!"
I'm sorry, but has anyone heard word-one from this Surgeon General? There is certainly no lack of subject matter for this leader of our country to tackle! Avian Flu, for instance. Umm, mental health of children affected by Katrina. How about the Crystal Meth crisis sweeping the nation. I could go on and I don't even have an inkling about healthcare.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Really tough questions...

Satya asked with a quite a bit of frustration yesterday: "Mom, how can we say that Mercury is 'near the Sun,' if it is actually millions and millions of miles from the Sun?"

Anyone have a good way to visualize the enormity of space???

My new found alto-ism

Parenting is finding the strongest harmony to support and develop the melodies of our children.
Pre-parenting life in pursuit of my professional (what else was there?) and personal growth was spent trying to out-sing my peers in one way or another. Literally and figuratively -- I spent much of my youth in the performing arts -- I sought to lead everyone else.
How is it that I am a leader to my children, but find myself taking the back-seat? I know instinctually that is the right place for me to be--singing a strong but subtle and complementary harmony. Of course, finding the right notes can be its own challenge. I have to listen...and practice a lot more.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Needed: Magical Kingdom antidote

This is it. I am done. Disney has gone too far. And, I am declaring war. I have been quietly disgusted at the Disney Princess craze, hoping that its marketability would die down, or become passe after being overhyped. But now I am horrified. Disney has announced that in early April it will open the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here's a short description:

"The boutique is to open in April at a Downtown Disney store and will include 10 chairs where girls can get fancy up-dos or hair extensions. With Kiddie spa treatments increasingly popular here, Disney currently offers kid primping including "my first facial" and "my first pedicure," and we hear that the highest-end package will include the works - hair, make-up, nails, a princess gown and a glam photo - and will probably be around $100. But, for your Princess that's not a lot of Mickey dollars!"

I had no idea that kiddie spa treatments existed much less that they were growing in popularity. What, do kids need a break from all the stress of pretend play? No, they need a break from the non-stop din of Disney programming on digital TV!, marketing at Wal-Mart and lifestyle invasion.

My objection is not to princesses and fairy tales per se. Pretend play is great. It helps children sort out their emotional and social roles. But Disney has taken all of the pretend out of the play. It prescribes the scenarios; it sanctions the props. Why does the princess have to be Sleeping Beauty? Why can't she be Princess Joanie? Why can't she be a royal wizard, chief architect or court composer? And, whatever happend to making a princess robe out of an old towel, a crown out of construction paper? And, while we are at it, where are the boys???? Is there a black Cinderella?

I am generally pretty laissez-faire. I don't believe in protecting children from every unpleasantry of modern life. I just need an alternative. And I need it to have the reach and capital backing of Disney.

Oprah...Are you out there? We need to talk!

(Look I realize that I am being incredibly simplistic in this rant, but what do you expect? It's a blog! If you want to have an intelligent conversation about sociology, child psychology and economics, I welcome your comments. If you have any resources for a mother desperate to give a daughter positive images and experiences, please share.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Written on a cut-out section of cardboard box and sent to a friend via U.S. PO:
"Hullo there...You know they have Star Wars fruit snacks?! Yes, you , too, can get blueberry molded head of Darth Vadar and Chewy Chew-bacca. They are not as yummy as those cute and lovable Pixar trademarked fruit snacks, like Nemo.
I think we need "Fossil Snacks" like: Head of Lucy, Austrolopithicus (that would be in a distinctive smoked mammoth flavor). The bummer flavor - you know the "less-preferred" one that no one wants -- would be trilobites in either a vaguely vanilla rootbeer flavor or imitation Philly-cheesesteak."

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras day 2006

Jen Granick's blog shares a little Mardi Gras splash today. Her pictures include evidence that the party goes on...with masks of one kind...and another.
Nagin gave another stupid speech, drunkenly toasting "our Zulu brothers" who died in Katrina. Not sure he's any more a Zulu brother than I am!
In the meantime, Mosaic continues trying every avenue to pull the pieces together from afar. And the Army Corps acknowledges they are only trying to put the levees back in a little better shape than before. At least there will BE a levee by June!
What does this have to do with Buddha lessons? Well, maybe in explains why the other day I so adamantly condemned Disney princess craze to Satya, who was visibly heart broken to have her idols - Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, et all - cut down. I think it was Mardi Gras and not Disney, as much, that gave me the false perception of my princesshood, so maybe my gripe should be more with the Krewe of Rex than the fiends at Disney...But it's not popular to rail against anything New Orleans anymore and everyone knows Disney sucks.
Oh yeah, and in case you haven't heard - or don't have TV, like us...Bush knew.

Monday, February 27, 2006

"Benevolent" lump

Saturday. Found a lump low on Satya's neck. Called Doctor. ...who said not to worry about it, probably linked to last week's cold and sore throat.
Now I am thanking the non-issue lump. For I spent the rest of the weekend grateful and present. Grateful to have a healthy vivacious daughter. Present in every delightful moment I get with her.

A song on a Monday morning

As Sesame Street says, "One Small Voice" can teach the world a song. The essay on "This I Believe" this morning by 16 year old Josh Rittenberg gave me a little hope for making it through and even more hope that there will be a promising future for Satya and Kuruna.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Can't write

I set out at the beginning of the year to write more and to write frequently. I can't write tonight - especially not about nice things and my children. I have been trying for the last couple of days to get myself into a yummy safe place, but I can't find one.

Frankly, I am afraid and angry. What will become of the Middle East? What will become of the bird flu? Will we ever have healthcare rights for our poor? Will the federal and state governments move to limit the rights of pregnant women?

Does every mother go through this? I feel as if I was born and gave birth at the wrong time. I feel as if I have brought my children into a terribly dangerous world. How common is this feeling among mothers? Maybe it because I am a "child of Og." I can't write. I need to go check on my sleeping children.

I can't write.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Poverty in America This site gives an idea of what its like to be poor in America. It asks : what do you leave out when you leave below the poverty line.
Seeing this site hit me in a familiar place, an angry place. I cannot abide the suffering of mothers who cannot protect or provide for their children. The notion that this great big "mother" earth, and we humans as her caretakers, cannot provide for all mothers the resources they need angers me greatly. The fact that we cannot do so in the world's richest nation makes my head want to explode.

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Friday, February 10, 2006


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
-Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

A friend attached this quote in her list serve post this week. She was referring to current events in our home state and on the national stage. I think she meant that people who can make you believe untruths can make you act unconscionably, too.

Still, something bothered me about the work absurdity. In English, the absurd rings a somewhat jovial tone. It is non-sense, possibly dark non-sense, but not alltogether troubling. To the French, though (and thus to Voltaire?) absurdite is quite dark. Granted, all definitions of absurd in French now point to existentialism, in full bloom 200 years after Voltaire. Nevertheless, the Wikipedia entry in French had something to offer:

"ce qui est dénué de tous sens préétabli. Le substantif absurde est utilisé pour évoquer l'absurdité du monde, de l'humanité et de sa condition, lesquels ne sont en rien justifiées."

that which deviates from all pre-established reason...that which will never find any justification

The rest of Voltaire's quote can be found on One Good Move

"Let us therefore reject all superstition in order to become more human; but in speaking against fanaticism, let us not imitate the fanatics: they are sick men in delirium who want to chastise their doctors. Let us assuage their ills, and never embitter them, and let us pour drop by drop into their souls the divine balm of toleration, which they would reject with horror if it were offered to them all at once."

I am not sure what to believe, what I can believe any more. At least I can find some solace in search for root meanings of Voltaire quotes. I feel quite certain I am beginning to understand his intention. Let us continue to search for truth and meaning, toleration and compassion.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Our liability

My next door neighbor and I were discussing the Cashman case. It may be difficult to parse the politics from the jurisprudence, but one lesson is clear. Our penal system is not well designed for rehabilitation. And, unless we plan to incarcerate for life or kill every offender – an impossible proposition – we must examine and amend our criminal codes to rehabilitate offenders as early as possible. This concept of rehabilitation, remuneration and reconciliation has vanished from our social consciousness. Instead we take the stance of harsh and quick revenge or retaliation if you will.

Justice Holmes, in his landmark book, The Common Law, notes the origins of liability in the societal need for revenge. The English took liability so much to the extreme that law made liable a tree whose branch had fallen and injured a person. It called for the tree to be summarily executed, chopped down and delivered to the victim or his family. I think weÂ’ve gone that far.

Last night Satya asked me about torpedoes (blame a Calvin & Hobbes strip, in which Calvin shouts “Awooga” as his bathtub battleship is attacked by a Hobbesian cannon ball). She wanted reassurance that the only case in which one country or interest might use torpedoes against another would require unwavering doubt that the other party was “bad, bad, bad.” Yes, that is three bads.

I did not hesitate in my response. I told her that was absolutely the only time that we should cause such harm to another person or nation, but that often we acted out of anger and a desire to revenge rather than out of an effort to understand. And that in acting without understanding, we might often find ourselves doing harm rather than repairing the situation.

How like a child to go to the heart of an issue, setting aside the theater of war (i.e. the dramatics) for concern for the people in it. Whether at war or in an embattled society in which the penal population inevitably grows, Satya has reminded me to get back to thinking about the people.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blogosphere: the new picket line?

Discussing politics, religion, the war (the most recent one) with friends, someone noted how we don't see students out on the green (I live in a small college town) protesting "like they did in the 60's."
As the conversation ensued, these women posited substitute venues for protesting. The blogosphere was offered as an alternate commons to the town square. The blogosphere offers a lot to young liberal activists. It allows them a wider audience. It allows them to be anonymous if they wish.
Protesters also have a much better chance of being articulate when they have more than a 2.5' X 3' space on which to right a pithy slogan in 64 point font.
Question: do we still have the same sense of community in the blogosphere? I mean, it's easy to search for others who have the same sentiments and to post comments to their blog, but it's really hard to bring them a cup of coffee and a hug to express simpatico and solidarity.
I pass these guys: every morning They are bundled up against the cold, walking the street. They are of the 60's generation - at least their representatives in my hometown are. I honk and wave to be kind. I'm just not sure whether we'll see this kind of presence once the baby boomers trade their picket signs for lazy boys.
Yes, somehow its more impressive to show up in person, sometimes, placard in hand, fist raised to the sky. Can you imagine the Orange revolution or Tiananmen Square as virtual movements? Who would stop the tanks? Who would sing the songs? We need the blogosphere to facilitate such movements, to publicize them and to build support. But we need the energy presence and strength of real people in the flesh.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Uninhibited creativity

I have an idea about where to go for advice on building back New Orleans post-Katrina. Ask the children. Satya created a neighborhood in half an hour, graced with flowers and windows and front doors. She even moved people back in to their houses.

I am an adult. I know that drawing three stick houses and moving 250,000 people into a ruined wasteland are not the same thing, at all. But I also know that as I watched her draw those houses, I observed completely uninhibited creativity. She has very few notions about what can't be done. To her every attempt is beautiful. To her, there is no shame in trying.

Each house in her estimation is perfect, in her estimation brings joy to its inhabitants. There are no blue ribbon commissions or inspector general's reports. Little kids have flowers outside their doors.
What happens to us that we stop drawing stick houses and happy people? Sometimes it seems to me there is nothing more worthwhile.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Right action, right intent

Driving to church with Satya and Kuruna, I see a runner, on the way. Oh, I need to run! I announce. (These days, the sight of a runner in winter tights, a ski cap and mittens instantly raises a green tinge in my complexion.)
Why don't you,? inquires Satya.
Well, I don't have enough time. I have work, and then I come home and I need to make dinner for you guys. By the time dinner is done and you guys are in bed, it's too late. You, know - I never have any time.
Why don't you just do it? says Satya, again.
Well, I need to. You know, in order to keep healthy. I really do. In fact, my doctor said it's important for me to run.
Well just do it, then! she commands.
I know. I really should...
Yes, sweetie?
I mean it. Stop talking about it and just go do it!


Saturday, January 14, 2006


Why is it that we don't recognize our learning habits better? There are recognized stages of learning, but those identify levels of competency. They do not reflect the psycho-emotional state of the learner during a prolonged learning experience. I am talking about something akin to the stages of grief, where is discussed the student's perspective on how "great" or "stupid" the endeavor is.

Satya, after four long months is just starting to like playing the violin. For these many months, I have endured screaming, crying, excuses, disinterest, laziness and despair just to get "Mississippi Hot Dog" whispered between the cat gut and the horse hair.

After four months of "stupid, "I now hear lovely notes. We have emerged - at least for the moment - into "great. There is no external reason behind this change. I belive it is simply the result of four months of consistent encouragement.

At the doctor, when they diagnose you with a terminal illness, don't they send you off with some social worker's business card, wherein are her name, phone number, and a subtext "Specializing in the X stages of grief"? All I am asking is to apply the same standard of care to Suzuki violin.

Without guidance, save for Satya's precious but very young teacher, I was reduced to taking one day at a time. Survival mode violin is not a pretty thing to see, much less to hear. And, all the frowning is terrible for my complexion. Now that she has reached a certain level of enjoyment and skill, I can see how this all developed. And, it reminds me of every one of my own learning experiences.

Without going too much into how she is like and not like me, let me just say, I don't think Satya's learning pattern is unique. She thought violin was great for 2 weeks; then stupid for eight weeks; then a chore for two weeks. Now it is "fun."

Really all I needed was a little forecast in the psychobabble department. You know, twelve steps, eight stages, four phases -- and an end date.

On this, the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth, perhaps we should not so much be celebrating the composer as issuing a long overdue remittance to his father, who had the patience to put up with young Mozart for long enough to get from "stupid" to "great."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cost of living

I promised I wouldn't rant on this page. So
I won't rant, but I might complain a little here
about the cost of living
on a middle class income
without any
squozzies (that's our word at home
for indulgences)
not Indulgences
something the CEO of Exxon Mobil
is going to need when
he can't buy his way
into heaven
with his $80 Million a year salary.

working in "development"

One cold day this past fall, I bundled up and headed out for a run. I made a minor detour to greet my daughter who was playing with a friend. "Mommy?"she asked, "can I have your gloves--I'm cold." Without hesitation, I put them on her, then planted kisses on her cheeks to keep her until I returned.

I missed my gloves. I have always detested being cold. But now I fear it. Something changed in the course of having two kids and a crazy career. I got thinner or nervier or tweaked something that made cold temperatures searing to my fingers and toes. So I wasn't just a bit chillier without my gloves. On a day that was still well above freezing, I might as well have had frostbite.

Then I thought about something I learned recently from a former trustee at my institution about gifts. He was speaking specifically about fundraising, but could have been talking about any kind of giving. He said that in order to ask anyone else to give (to a cause or institution or campaign), the person making the request needs to have given also. If you approach someone to give a "stretch" gift -- a substantial sacrifice of their resources--you had better be able to tell them that you have already made yours. Otherwise you have no business asking.

It's a great point about effective fundraising. I considered as I ran how applicable it is to parenting. I need to make stretch gifts everyday to my children in order to teach them about trust and generosity and faith and love. I have very high expectations for them. Every day they put such effort into pleasing me with good manners and loving gestures, with patience and determination. Toys get cleaned up. Violins are practiced. In a perfect world, we adults would have lovely no-stress lives in which to notice and applaud these gifts from our children. It's not perfect. There's no even system of give and take. So, in the rushed, tired state in which I live, I resort to little gifts and "stretch" gifts: kisses and gloves.

So far I am seeing regular dividends. Karma at work.