Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parenting Gifted Kids

I'm the first to admit I'm a literary nerd. Some people like math, other people love music. Me, I love words. I love grammar and spelling and punctuation and writing. I love word origins and definitions. I love playing word games. I appreciate when people write effectively, I love it when people write beautifully. Words are, on some higher level, the thing that I hold onto when all else fails me.

The National Spelling Bee is one of those events that literary nerds like me put in their calendars as a must-see TV moment. I don't miss the spelling bee. I look forward to watching young kids spell words I've never ever heard of, and I'm really a word freak. I appreciate what it means to be a good speller, for I am not one naturally. If it weren't for spell check, I feel I would have never finished graduate school. But I get why people encourage their kids to compete. The spellers compete for a trophy and $35,000 in cash, plus a $5,000 scholarship, a $2,500 savings bond and a set of reference works. That's a full year of tuition, room and board at a private university.

Tonight the finals of the spelling bee were televised on ABC. It was a great night, with a really excellent field of finalists. Unfortunately, they got picked off very quickly, with many going out in the very first round, including a couple of my favorites from last year. Yeah, I remember the kids from years past. I'm that kinda geek. This year's winner is Evan M. O'Dorney, of Danville, California. Evan is a 13 year old eighth grader who is homeschooled by his mother. According to his biography:
Last summer Evan was chosen as an onstage contestant for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but the judges could not outsmart his spelling skills and resorted to making him spell out of order and giving him non-dictionary words. Evan is dedicated to Tae Kwon Do and has earned a first degree black belt. He loves to play piano: In addition to taking lessons at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he accompanies his church's children's choir. This year he began attending the Berkeley Math Circle and achieved success in various math competitions: He earned a perfect score in the American Mathematics Competition for 10th grade, the American Invitational Mathematics Examination, and the Bay Area Math Olympiad. He also placed fifth in the Northern California Mathcounts competition. His parents are Jennifer O'Dorney, his home school teacher, and Michael O'Dorney, a Bay Area Rapid Transit train operator.
Evan looks to be quite an unusual kid. If I had to guess, I'd say he is a twice-exceptional child, gifted and probably has Aspergers. He certainly had many of the telltale signs of an Aspie kid. No matter, it's apparent he's very smart, and maybe a bit pushed by his mother, who when interviewed kept extolling his musical and math ability over his ability to spell. It didn't even seem like Evan likes to spell. At his post-win interview, he stated that it was just 'memorization' and that he hated the spelling bee.

So why was he competing? Was it a case of pushy mom syndrome? This is obviously a kid that is encouraged to enter competitions for academics. He's doing math competitions, music competitions, and the national spelling bee. He's 13 years old. That's a lot of pressure on a kid. Never mind that he stated on national television that he really wasn't interested in spelling and didn't particularly want to be there.

This is something that bothers me a lot. I'm the parent of a profoundly gifted kid. I know what it is to have a very smart kid. I also know how fragile highly gifted children are. And I don't understand why parents of kids like mine push their kids to attend special programs and compete academically. For many years I've been on listservs for parents of gifted kids. The parents.... well, let's just say that neurotic is the word that often comes to mind. There's the mom whose son hasn't even started high school yet who is already asking about early admissions to college. There's the mom who will ONLY allow her child to attend gifted camps during the summer. There's the dad who is a math professor who pushes his child to participate in all the math olympiads and then brags about how smart his kid is. Last post was talking about how his 7 year old child is reading calculus books for fun. FUN? I find that hard to believe.

I wonder if some of the parents are living vicariously through their kids. The failings of the parents are being expunged by the successes of the children. I wonder if the parents are socially inept (like me) or have some kind of inability to understand that children should have fun. Real fun. Like running and playing fun. And I also know the arguments against fun. "My kid doesn't like sports" or "My kid thinks math is fun" are common ones. And they both are legitimate. But isn't it the job of parents to encourage kids to try something new? Is there a rule that says if your kid is gifted they have to only love academics? I just wonder how many parents of gifted kids are secretly thrilled that they don't have to do the little league/soccer/ballet thing.

I don't know what the answers are. I honestly don't. What I do know is that my gifted kid tried little league, soccer, skateboarding, basketball, lacrosse, and now ultimate frisbee not because he's athletically inclined, because he's not. He tried it because I believe that it's important to be well rounded. I believe that kids should learn how to be team players. I believe that kids who may not fit in socially need a push in the right direction to learn how to get along with their peers. Sometimes that push was successful, sometimes it wasn't. But my gifted kid has plenty of friends, lots of interests outside of academics, and wins awards without being entered into competitions. Am I doing the right things? I have no clue. Honestly, I don't.

What I do know is that my kids are going to find it much easier to get along with the population at large than are kids that are pushed into only interacting with other gifted kids. Because I think that will only be harmful in the long run.

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Substitute LOST Discussion Thursday

Nothing to talk about now that Lost is gone until February. So I think I'm going to make Thursday You Tube Thursday until I can think of something else, maybe with a bit more substance.

In the meantime, here's a fun little find. 100 Numbers, 100 Movies, 100 Quotes. See how many you can name. I didn't do all that great, I got 62 on my first try, mostly because I knew the movies but couldn't think of the NAME of the movie in time. You know, early onset Oldtimer's Disease.


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Graduation Season

It's graduation season, and today the Boy's small learning community in the high school had their ceremony for the kids who are graduating. There were only 5 seniors in this group, but they also attend the regular graduation as members of the senior class, so they get twice the pomp and circumstance.

I like to attend the graduation even though nobody is graduating yet in my family. This year the head of the program called and asked me to please attend because the Boy would be getting an award. He got Student of the Year last year, so I didn't think he'd be getting that again, but I agreed to come, and invited the Girl to come as well. Not only is it a fun ceremony with interesting people in attendance, the food... well, the food is fabulous! They really go all out in his program, and free food is always a big draw!

The director of the program spoke first, and introduced at the subsequent speakers.

Program Director Dr. Steve presents a big Star award to the head of Special Education

The Mayor told about how he dropped out of college but went back and got his law degree. Doesn't he look like Mr Bean?

Mr Bean talks about how unpopular he is in town

The Superintendent, who is not my favorite person, also spoke about dropping out of school and going back for his doctorate.

Superintendent talking about when he was a boy walking 5 miles in the snow uphill both ways.

The Principal spoke, and we all have no idea what the heck he was speaking about. Low talker, he is.

Principal in snazzy yellow linen suit

One of the graduates gave a nice speech about how she was helped and supported by this small learning community, and how without it she didn't think she would have graduated. She got a standing ovation.

Student speaker

The teachers presented several special awards for undergraduates. This year the Boy received the Outstanding Individual Award (or as he puts it, "the best student of all time award") and then a second award for Best Citizen. He got a T-shirt for the second one that says "Keep Smiling" on the back. OK.

The Boy receiving his award. He has a face behind that hair.

There were the housemasters, the guidance counselors, the probation officers, the therapists, the police youth officer, PTO officials, other teachers, parents, siblings, and various other people in attendance.

Two of the teachers presenting awards.

The graduates all got to receive their special diplomas and shake hands with important people. They seemed happy to get this one overwith. They also got gifts.

After all the speeches were over we all trooped upstairs for the food. I was so hungry I forgot to take photos of the spread, but it was good. There was an amazing fruit salad that I attacked, and a really delicious edemame feta salad that was amazing. Plus a spinach salad with strawberries that was great. I'm big on the salads, but there was lasagne, and some shrimp cocktail, and various other things, and TONS of desserts.

Plus, the most enormous cake I've ever seen. This thing was MASSIVE. It had to be 36" around, and two big layers thick. That orange plate in the background. It's a full sized dinner paper plate. That's how huge that cake was. We took a big chunk home for dessert tonight. Yeah.

So many people congratulated me, which was kind of weird, since I haven't done anything much. But I was so freaking proud of my boy. He's doing so well, and he's gotten so many accolades. I'm thrilled with him today.

The Boy, his friends E and C with E displaying the shirt the Boy won.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Once Upon a Day

The lovely people at MotherTalk recently sent me an extremely unusual and interesting book to read. Once Upon a Day, by Lisa Tucker is the tale of a family wracked by violence and the ultimate destruction of the family that ensued. Lisa Tucker has written a story of a family history and interpersonal drama which will consume the reader from the first chapter. This is the kind of book that you honestly can't put down, and will read from cover to cover consumed by what may or may not happen next.

I don't think I can do justice to a plot summary, but I'll try. Essentially, we start out meeting a a family living in seclusion on a New Mexico estate. The father, Charles O'Brian has raised his two children, now in their early twenties, with no contact with the outside world, in 1950's-style clothing, and they worship him and fear the outside world. They never have once stepped off the ranch he calls the Sanctuary. No school, no TV, movies or radio, no newspapers, no visits to town, no visitors except the town doctor, these two children are totally sheltered from the world. All is well until the older brother, Jimmy, who has been questioning his father to no avail about their 'dead' mother, leaves on a quest to find out about their mother. Two years pass, and then he loses touch with the family through his now infrequent letters, and his sister Dorothea heads to Missouri to find Jimmy. She wants to tell him that Dad is very sick and need him to return to the Sanctuary. But things aren't at all as they appear. Jimmy is found in the psych ward of a St Louis city hospital, where he has been self-destructive and living in squalor. Dorothea, who takes the bus to St Louis from New Mexico, is picked up by Stephen, a cab driver who is mourning his own losses. Stephen helps Dorothea to find Jimmy in the hospital, and the brings her to his home, where the two fall in love. But there is a big twist. Dorotheas's Mom isn't dead, and Dad kidnapped his kids two decades ago.

The story involves both the present time and flashbacks of the dissolution of marriage between Charles and Lucy, leading to his fanatic escape into desert seclusion with their two children. Charles Keenan, a famous actor and director, is an unbalanced and controlling man who smothers his family with love and protection. He is so paranoid about things going wrong, people he loves getting hurt, that he smothers his entire family and refuses to let them live normal lives. Because of this paranoia, Charles refuses to let his little son Jimmy ride the bus on a field trip, and accompanies 5 yr-old Jimmy in his Mercedes, riding behind the bus. Meanwhile, Lucy and Dorothea are home swimming when their home is invaded by two robbers. They make Lucy place baby Dorothea in a closet and block it with a dresser. The intercom is on and she can hear her baby as the robbers first ransack the house, and then physically assault Lucy, stabbing her 17 times and beating her to a pulp. Her body is discovered hours later by Jimmy, and after that act of violence, Charles goes completely over the edge with regards to safety, ultimately leaving Lucy and kidnapping the kids and moving into seclusion at the Sanctuary.

Before the kidnapping, Charles actively ruins his young wife's acting career out of his fear and paranoia, which he sees as "love." One can only assume that Tucker started working on this novel well before the current reigning Hollywood couple, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, who pair an somewhat older man with infamous religious values, with a younger actress who seems to be cut off from family and friends, but the parallels are eerie. The parallels are uncanny, even if the characters are different.

Tucker's novel is a powerful dissertation of the exploration of family dysfunction. Again and again, we see the consequences of the effects of dysfunction, from Charles's own childhood relationship with his father, to Lucy's need for a father-figure type husband after her tumultuous childhood and early sexuality, to the effects of Charles's smothering on his own children. Even the way that Lucy and Jimmy learn the truth about their parents' relationship is extremely troubling to everyone involved. Tucker never overtly mentions therapy, but I certainly kept thinking, "Man, every character in this book could use a good therapist at this point in their life."

I highly recommend this book. It was a real page turner, with a somewhat predictable ending, but the story along the way was mesmerizing.

Author's web site: http://www.lisatucker.com/

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let's talk about teenagers for a sec

Having teenagers is interesting. Exciting. Exhausting. Brutal. Fun.

It's harder in some ways than having little kids. Most of the time it's much easier. You don't have to watch them every second. You do still worry a lot.

Teenagers eat an enormous amount. They also fight about food. When I shop and come home, food is 'claimed' by the Girl. She does this because her brother will eat everything if he's allowed free reign over the kitchen, which he mostly is. He eats her 'claimed' food anyways, and she has a fit. I keep telling her she can't claim food as hers. If I buy a box of crackers, they aren't hers. They belong to the family. But I get why she disagrees. Mostly he'll take the food and eat it all. He's like a human eating machine. It's unreal the amount of food it takes to sustain his body. He's constantly hungry. And he 'forgets' to ask if anyone wants something. If it's there, it's his to eat. For example, I made myself some orange juice. I didn't touch it, just put it in the fridge. He drank the whole thing before anyone had a chance to go near the pitcher. When I said something to him, he claimed that the Girl had half of the container. But she doesn't like orange juice (I know!) and I didn't touch it, so he drank it all. All of it. In one sitting. Sigh.

The fighting about food gets to me and I don't know how to solve it. She is a very particular eater, he's a steam shovel. She wants to have a granola bar every morning, he takes the box and eats it all in one sitting. So she's screwed constantly. I've told her to keep the food in her room or to hide it, but he finds most of it anyhow. He's voracious at all times.

This is driving me nuts. They fight over food and chores incessently. If we could solve those two issues, we'd be living in peace.

But then they decide to get along. Today they played tennis in the back yard for a couple of hours and had a lot of fun. The Boy initiated the game, and at first the Girl didn't really want to play.

But then she got into it, and was serving and running after the ball like a champ.While they have the equipment, their outfits leave a lot to be desired.

Note the Girl's arm, which is filled with writing all her friends did while she was asleep at a sleepover this weekend. In Sharpie. Which isn't coming off. Ask me how thrilled I am about this. Go ahead, ask!

We had the neighbors out to cheer on the game.

Worthless Pet kept trying to get into the act, but to no avail. So it seemed important to get his tummy rubbed instead.

I watched the action and cheered them on from the sidelines.

As they played, the vastly improved.

And had fun. Lots of fun. Not one argument. And they thought it would be really funny if they hit the ball right at me. Hahaha. They tried, but they didn't quite make it!

Maybe this will be something they can do to entertain themselves this summer. And maybe they could walk to the end of the block where there are several tennis courts that they can play on. That would be nice!

But maybe not as fun as watching them run all around the back yard.

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Weekend roundup

It was a nice relaxing long weekend for our family. Some of the things that happened over the weekend were a tad bit bizarre, others were just normal. So how was your weekend?

  • The Girl went out on a yacht in the Charles, took the launch out, the motor stopped, she tried to fix it and fell into the river. Coast guard had to rescue them and tow them back to her friend's yacht.
  • We all went to see Pirates. The Boy saw it on Sunday, the Girl and I saw it today. Meh. It was OK. Not enough Johnny Depp. Predictable storyline. Some wonderful CGI effects. Geoffery Rush was very good. Keith Richards was Keith Richards with Jack Sparrow dreds. Keira Knightly is shrill and annoying. Orlando Bloom is pretty but doesn't do it for me at all. Kiera's outfit at the end of the movie was fabulous and I want it. Only it's probably a size -2.
  • Played frisbee with the Boy
  • Hung out the American Flag
  • Neighbor and I playing passive aggressive game with garden. He's trying to mow it all down, I'm trying to restore it. This week was a draw. He has destroyed my siberian iris mound, I've saved my rudbekia. And I've got a plan! Heh.
  • Read a lot
  • Had major argument with the Girl who is now grounded and off the computer for a week.
  • Laundry, dishes, cooking, litterbox, opened windows, cleaned up.
  • Boy and I assembled a new kitchen island with marble top.
  • Lindsay Lohan arrested for DUI and found with cocaine in her car. Quelle Suprise!
  • Got caught up on local gossip with friends. That took all of 5 minutes. Everyone is moving to Portland Oregon. It's the new San Francisco. Young and hip? You must move to Portland. Ahem.
  • Rebooted computer countless times because something is making it all wonky. I haven't yet found what it is even running virus detectors and Webspy. Ugh.
  • Watched Indy 500. What a colossal waste of fuel. Boring? Oh yeah. Best part was watching Ashley Judd in the pouring rain.
  • Going bonkers from allergies. Eyeballs are itchy. Nose is runny. Head aches. Go Spring! It was freaking hot here, too. In the 90's. Still no air-conditioners in windows. Non-cooperating kids...gotta loathe them!
  • TV sucks. Nothing on. Big Brother starts on July 5th. That's a long way off.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Did you know that some people have social lives?

I am gobsmacked. God, I love that word! I've been trying mightily to plan a bit of a get-together for a bunch of friends that I don't often see. Just a small Sunday gathering with some food, music, and of course drinks. You would think I'm planning the wedding of the century. People have every weekend booked between now and August, for heaven's sake. Who the hell is that busy in the summer? Isn't the summer the time when you all hang out and get relaxed? I must be missing something because we've got a few things planned, but mostly we're not so much a plan ahead family. I've always been spontaneous. I like living on the edge, I guess. But now I feel like there's something wrong with me that I don't have social engagements every weekend up until next December.

I've been mulling over and over and over again whether or not to go here. But it's really bothering me a lot, and I need a bit of a sanity check. The other day, Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer posted something about whether or not you would vote for someone that had experienced an extra-marital affair. To me, what a person does in their private lives has little to do with how they're going to perform as President of the United States. I mean, pretty much all of our Presidents have had extra-marital affairs and it didn't much matter at all until the Conservative Christians went all ballistic on Clinton.

But most of the readers/commenters at RIMD totally disagreed with me. Almost all of them are very conservative Christians, and they have answered for me the question of how the hell this country got into this mess with the Shrub. Man, if it isn't clear to you that something is seriously wrong with the way the Christian right thinks politically, take a look at the comments. There are people that have stated that they WOULD NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE THAT ISN'T CHRISTIAN. I cannot believe that level of bigotry went unchallenged, but it did. Some of the comments are so, I can't even think of a word that correctly describes what I'm feeling... bizarre, ugly, ignorant, uneducated, stupid, bigoted, and rigid all come to mind. How did people that proclaim their Christianity loudly and clearly forget some of the original tenets of their religion? How can the be so ignorant? How can they be such bigots and think that it's just OK to spew hatred in the name of Christianity?

This comment in particular intrigued me. How do you even argue with someone that thinks like this? Or this one. Wouldn't ever vote against party lines regardless of how HER party has, in less than 9 years, almost destroyed this country. Oy vey iz mir! This one was particularly weird. Jews will NEVER be President. OK. This one made me physically ill. To make that kind of comparison is beyond sick. Living breathing men, women and children marched to their deaths is NOT the same as an abortion. And if this person can't see that, then what hope do we have for the voters of the country?

The thing is, I'm sure these are nice people that are so sheltered in their Christian right wing lives that they don't even get how scary their ideology is. I don't think anyone posting is mean or wants to be hurtful, far from it. I think they actually believe that this way of living is the right way for all of us. That they have the right to declare their mores on the entire world, but don't see the irony of that when they decry the Islamic 'enemy'. Here's another head scratcher. And here, here and here.

That should give you a taste of the discussion. I wish I could get it out of my mind, but it really has put a shadow over the entire weekend. I know better than to read this stuff, too. But this time I got intrigued and ended up commenting. Ugh. I should just put myself in time out.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Just a bit of cleaning and dusting

Are you from any of the New England States? Are you a mom? If you answered yes to these two questions, you are a lucky duck. You get to join New England Mamas, a new blog just for us hardy New Englander moms. Note that button on my right sidebar with the lovely lake and the fall foliage. Click it and you'll be alongside other New England moms. Come join us!

While you're looking at the right sidebar, please note at the bottom you'll find 6 buttons that I'd really appreciate you clicking when you're visiting. For each click on a button, a dollar is donated to the specific charity. Just think, you could be donating 6 bucks in just a second. Do it daily, and your effort becomes a really substantial donation. It's a totally easy way to help children, animals, and women. So click often, ok?

Oh, and there is that blasted blog survey. It's on the right sidebar too. If you have a minute, could you take the survey? It will help me identify who my audience is. You know, like everyone else's survey.

Lastly, I've been busy lately updating my stylehive. If you're unfamiliar with stylehive, go ahead and click on my flash badge and come over and check out my latest finds. Then go exploring the whole site. It's a wonderful way to keep up with home furnishings, fashion, jewelry, and many crafts. It's all browing, no buying. Windowshopping online. What a concept!

Enjoy your long weekend, fellow Americanos, and for everyone else, have a fabulous weekend off. Don't get too much sun!

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Friday, May 25, 2007

A taboo topic: religion

Today's MotherTalk Blog Tour focuses on the topic we've all been taught not to discuss at dinner parties: religion. While I agree that you have to pick your audience, I think religion is a suitable topic for discussion despite the ire it tends to raise in some folks. Yup, it's a touchy subject, especially if, like me, you're the proud adherent of a minority religion. And especially if you live in the USA, where it is consistantly assumed that everyone is Christian with a capital C.
I love being Jewish. I've mentioned this enough times to hopefully convince my readers that I have no interest in changing to any other belief system. I'm really happy with Judaism. The religion embodies, for me, everything that I feel is important in life. Of course, as a "liberal" Jew, which means anyone that isn't traditional Orthodox, I have made life choices that don't necessarily follow all of halacha, Jewish Law. I don't cover my hair, I wear pants, I remain gloriously unmarried and love it, and I am not Shomer Shabbas (honor Shabbat by following halacha). Do I feel guilty about this? No, not really. I do what I can, and what makes my life difficult I tend to leave aside. Life is hard enough. I don't need to be a hard-liner in order to prove that I'm a good Jew.

Just because I love being Jewish does not mean, not for one teeny tiny second, that I love organized Judaism, because I do not. In fact, I'm often very vocal in my outrage at how American liberal Judaism has moved so far beyond the actual tenets of Judaism as to be almost unrecognizable. For example, I do not, or will not ever, accept patrilineal descent. Reform Judaism, the most liberal branch of Judaism that was started in pre-war Germany, has decided that what defines a Jew is different for them than for any other Jews. Nope, you can't just make a determination based on absolutely nothing and decide that the children of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is Jewish. And there is NO SUCH THING as 'half' Jewish. You are either Jewish, or you are not. You cannot be half-Jewish. If your mother is Jewish, then welcome to the tribe. If she was not, seek conversion. It's just that simple.

But the rulings that liberal Judaism has made over the last century are the least of my distress over organized religion. I don't like how Judaism treats single parents. The gist: very badly. I don't like how everything costs a fortune in Judaism. The assumption that all Jews are wealthy should be wiped off the face of the earth. I'm living proof that all Jews are far from wealthy. Some are, some aren't, just like in every other walk of life. But you don't have to pay $2000/yearly for dues to churches. You do to belong to a synagogue. Then you get to pay for all sorts of fees. Want to attend High Holiday services? You better shell out several hundred bucks or you don't get to go. Jewish camps are much more expensive than secular camps. Jewish day schools are way more expensive than Catholic schools. You want to have a b'nai mitzvah for your kid? You get to pay for the tutoring, the Hebrew school, and that doesn't even include the huge outlay for a party. If you can't afford all this? Tough. Because it is assumed that all Jews are rich, even by other Jews, there is little to no financial aid to help those families that can't afford to participate. Jews are great fundraisers, but the money does not go to poor Jewish families. I don't know where it goes... much to Israel, much to help the elderly, and the Russian immigrants who have great knowledge in how to work the system. But not to people like me.

But what REALLY gets my goat is that if you aren't wealthy and can't afford to celebrate life events within a synagogue, you're judged negatively, like it's all your fault. When people ask me about my kids b'nai mitzvah and I say I couldn't afford a tutor so they didn't have one, it is as if I said that I'm raising my kids Wiccan. Nobody volunteered to help, either. Which is a complete shonda (shameful) in my eyes.

What this does is make Jewish children angry and repulsed at Judaism. While the Girl still likes being Jewish and identifies that way, the Boy has a real hate on Judaism, which has completely and totally let him down. I blame a specific Rabbi for the Boy's feelings, and frankly, I think he's somewhat justified in feeling so negatively about his religion.

Judaism constantly preaches continuity. Keeping the religions going means sending your kids to Jewish schools and Jewish camps and making them a part of the community. But I can say, with absolute certainty, that the Judaism in our community does not practice continuity. They refuse to acknowledge different types of families, different types of economic situations, and different types of people. If you don't fit into the mold that they have determined is the correct way to be Jewish, then you can forget being welcomed into the community.

I have to wonder why people have intermarried out of Judaism and raise their children with no religion at all. As one as continuity is not practiced across the board, the liberal streams of the religion have little chance of remaining strong. The fact that more and more people are becoming ba'al teshuvah (newly religious) and moving towards Orthodoxy strengthens my argument. It is actually easier to be Orthodox when you are financially bereft. They get it. Liberal Jews need to open their eyes and change their expectations if they want to continue to thrive. So far, they have shown no intention of doing so.

MotherTalk is featuring Parenting Beyond Belief, available at Amazon.

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1001: A strange odyssey

This is my first significant numerical post since the lowly beginnings of this here blawg. It's my 1001 post. Miraculously, my last Lost Discussion Thursday post of the season was my 1000th post. I like that. I like it a lot.

It's hard for me to believe that I've found 1000 things to blather on about but evidentally I'm still able to spit out a word or two, so I'm going to keep going. Because, and I am loathe to admit this, I think in blawg. You know what I mean? I'm the dummy that always wants to grab for my camera and take pictures of the absurd in my life. I all of a sudden need to document every frickin meal I cook, every outfit my daughter concocts, every silly place we visit. I have become the self-centered queen of documentation. Heh. Like this is something new!

I love blogging. Maybe a little bit too much. A long time ago, when blogging was new and people were more into subject blogs, I was intimidated by just having what is deemed a 'personal' blog. It seemed self-absorbed to just talk about me and my kids all the time. It's like when you've started therapy and the world revolves around you. That's valuable when you're in therapy, because you're supposed to concentrate on you. But it gets really boring for your friends and family. Oh, you didn't know that. Well, it does.

There are blogs I used to love that I can't even read anymore because year after year they stay totally and completely focused on themselves. Yawn. I need more. So I started to offer more. More local politics, which probably bore the pants off of some of you, but they are of great interest to some of my readers. More on personal observations. Books I read, movies I saw, products I loved or hated. And of course, national politics and a teeny bit of Tom Cruise frothing at the mouth. We can't forget Pat Robertson either. That dolt has given me some of my best blog fodder.

I believe that after one, and I include myself, has been blogging for a few years, readers want to hear more than just what silly thing your large appliances did. They want to know the whole you. They want to read not only your opinions, your thoughts on other things going on in the world, but they want to know about who you are other than a parent or a worker. To me, at least, the blogs that I best love are the ones that share all of their lives, including the big taboos, politics and religion. The ones that talk clearly about the good and the bad in their lives. The ones that share the frustrations of our government, their finances, their jobs, their relationships. Yes, your kids are interesting. To a point. But if you can't identify beyond them and the graceful art of parenting at some point, you're going to have a lot of trouble when your kids get older and their lives are not so intrinsically wrapped up in yours.

So, from post 1002 onward I vow to give you more of me. More of my opinions. More of my frustrations. More of my nutty city politics. More religion. More. Just more. Hopefully it will be well-balanced. Hopefully some will be though-provoking. Hopefully much of it will be interesting. Guaranteed at least a tiny bit will be morbid and sad. Oh, and funny. Can't forget the funny.

Happy blogging, everyone! Let the kvetching commence.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

LOST Discussion Thursday

Season Finale. Sob. No more Sawyer, Sayid, and Jin until 2008. Sob. I'm going to miss them so (sob) much. Sob.

Well, what did you think of this finale? I thought it was awesome, although I have to admit... I'm a scum and I peeked at the spoilers. But even so, this was a tight, well done finale. We say goodbye to quite a few characters, most of them Others. We got a glimpse into the future, which left us with a lot of questions. We saw the Losties stand up to the Others and win, for once. We watched some unusual heros, like Hurley and Charlie, and we saw some very interesting exchanges that left us wondering just what was going on. All in all, enough to keep us interested until next season, with plenty to ponder and a few puzzles to keep us plugged into the LOST sites. Can't say that wasn't a successful finale!

The finale picked up where “Greatest Hits” , last week's episode left off. Just as I said, Greatest Hits seems to have been designed and written as an entrance into the season finale. With both episodes there are three basic threads to discuss. Let's try and gather a bit of perspective on each of the Island threads first. Then we'll go into the whole flash "back". OK?

First, the Charlie situation. We last saw Charlie being confronted by the two hot babes with guns in the Looking Glass hatch. In this episode, we first see Desmond still knocked out in the outrigger, and we watch him just waking up. Just as he sits up, Mikhail shows up and starts shooting at Desmond, who is forced to swim down to the Looking Glass hatch. He enters the hatch, sees Charlie all tied up and beaten, and Charlie warns him to hide. Desmond hides from the two babes, watches Patchy shoot one of the women after talking to Ben via the walkie-talkie and getting a totally bogus story. The the second woman is shot, but she is still alive. Desmond then gets a spear gun, and takes out Mikhail, who appears to be dead. Charlie gets the code from the dying babe, (Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, which was a nice touch!) and goes into the room with the switch. He punches in the code, and sees that there is a transmission coming in. Pushing the red button, he gets Penny on the video. He has a short discussion but discovers that Penny doesn't know who Naomi is, isn't on a boat, but it still looking for Desmond. However, just as Charlie is completing his chat with Penny, Mikhail pops up outside with a grenade in his hand. Charlie closes the airlock door separating himself from Desmond and takes the brunt of the grenade detonation, which kills him. However, before he dies, he takes a sharpie out of his pocket and writes on his hand, "Not Penny's Boat" which he shows to Desmond. Desmond gets the message and watches Charlie die.

The ambush on the beach does not go exactly as planned. When the band of Others sneak up on the "sleeping" Losties, they check to see if the tents are marked. One female Other says that Juliet has done her job, marking 3 tents. They go to get the 'pregnant' Losties, and then Sayid and Bernard shoot at the dynamite, hitting their targets and cause some major damage and quite a few Other's deaths. The the third contingent of Others figures out that something bad is up and stays far away from Jin’s target. Jin comes out of hiding to try shoot them one by one, but is forced to give up and the three are captured and held at gunpoint by our old friends Tom and Price.

Ben, meanwhile, sends all his Others off to “The Temple” except for Alex. He and Alex leave on a hike to intercept Jack’s expedition to the radio tower. While Ben and Alex are marching towards the tower, and Jack and the Losties are also heading towards the tower from another direction, Sawyer and Juliet decided to go back and check on our sharpshooters. They slipped back to the beach unseen, and Hurley catches up with them and asks to join them. Once again he's rebuffed because of his weight. When Ben and Alex catch up with Jack and the Losties, he offers a deal. He tells Jack to give him the satellite phone and he will release the 3 beach hostages. Ben tells Jack that Naomi is not who she says she is, and will bring people to the island that will kill everyone on it, Losties and Others. Jack refuses to believe Ben and will not give Ben the phone. Ben orders the hostages shot on the walkie-talkie, and then we hear the shots over the radio. Jack is furious and beats Ben to shreds, but does not realize that the shooting was bluff. It appears like Ben is making his plan up as he goes along.

We then switch back to Locke in the ditch with all the Dharma corpses. When he finds that he is paralyzed again, he finds a gun on one of the Dharma corpses and is about to shoot himself. A voice tells him not to do it, and when Locke looks up to the rim of the ditch, he sees a much more grown up Walt. Walt, in a deeper, changed voice, tells Locke he will be able to heal himself again. Low and behold he does, and Walt disappears before Locke has a chance to ask him what he is doing there. Apparently the black smoke has turned itself into Walt, but giving us a SORAS* view of Walt as a teen. Locke pulls himself out of the ditch and we next see him......

Meanwhile, while Locke is traversing the island, Sawyer and Juliet show up on the beach, unarmed, and with no plan. But then the hero of the hour, Hurley, comes out roaring out of the jungle in the Dharma van and slams into Price and then Tom, killing them both. He rescues our sharpshooters and they use the walkie-talkie to let Jack know that everyone is alive and well. Many hugs and smiles ensue amongst the Losties just as they reach the radio tower!

Jack’s party arrives at the tower and disconnects CFL's 16 year old transmission. Then Naomi starts to make a call to her ship, and the phone is connecting when Locke shows up and tosses one of his hunting knives into her back, instantly killing her. Jack stands up to Locke and they have quite the verbal tussle. Locke threatens to shoot Jack if he makes the call, but Jack calls his bluff, and tells whomever is on the other end of the phone that they are the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 and to please come and get them. The look on Ben's face as Jack tells the guy to use his GPS reading to find them. It was priceless. Voice tells them help is on the way. But Locke has gone back into the jungle and methinks we haven't seen the last of his insanity.

Okie Dokie, we're all caught up on the Island. Let's just look at the death count for a second, shall we?

Losties Dead= Charlie
Others Dead= Price, Patchy, Tom, 7 warriors, two babes in Looking Glass hatch
Losties kick butt!

Jack. Jack. Jack. What can we say about Jack. He's falling apart. He's lost his way even after being found. He's a druggie, downing Oxycontin like candy. He's suicidal. He's drinking. He's a complete mess. We first encounter him driving and trying to make a phone call after spying an obituary in the LA Times. It's someone he knows, obviously, and he tears it out of the paper. He's drunk and stoned and on a bridge and he pulls over to try and call a number again, which doesn't pick up. He leaves a lame message, gets out of his car, and climbs up onto the railing of the bridge looking down into the infamous Los Angeles River, which is actually a cement wash with no water in it 99% of the year. Anyhoooo, just as he's about to do a swan dive into the wash, crash bam boom! A car accident. Jack gets to jump into action and SAVE SOMEONE! He's regained a purpose in life. He's taken to the ER with the victim and victim's son, where his ex-wife Sarah shows up, visibly pregnant with her new man's baby. He still has her as his emergency contact. They have a sad scene with her crying and him looking drunker than ever.

Jack reading the obituary

The next morning we see Jack in the accident victim's hospital room, where he meets the new head of surgery. Jack wants to operate on the woman, NewDoc (name forgotten, sorry) knows that Jack is, as we say in Yiddish, furschtinkinur**, and refuses to allow him near the patient. In another, later hospital scene, we see Jack stealing Oxycontin from the hospital, where NewDoc finds him and basically lets him know that he knows Jack is a druggie drunk. Jack says "If you think I'm drunk, to upstairs and see my father because he's drunker than I am." Hmmm, Jack says daddy dearest is alive. Jack is not a happy camper.

Jack then heads to the 'hood, where he gets out of the car and stumbles into some sleazy funeral home. There is a coffin, closed, with nobody else there. A funeral guy comes in and tells Jack that there wasn't a funeral, just a viewing, and that Jack was the only one to show up. Jack pats the coffin and says he isn't a relative or a friend. But WHO is in the coffin? My guess is Ben, but we don't know. It could be Locke. Both of them could end up friendless, right?

We next come upon him in his apartment, which is covered with maps of the Pacific ocean and old plane tickets. He makes yet another phone call, but this time he connects and makes a date to meet someone by the airport. He drives to the airport and a Volvo drives up. They both get our of their cars, and he's meeting with Kate! She looks sad to see Jack, but they talk and she's says she has to go because "he's waiting". Nothing is really revealed other than Jack wanting to go back to the island desperately, and Kate having none of it. Plus he tells her that he is using the free golden ticket that Oceanic Air gave them to fly all over the Pacific hoping that the plane crashes. Weird stuff. He shows Kate the obituary and asks her if she went to the service. She's like, "No, why would I go?" The episode ends with Jack begging Kate to go back to the island, and she gets into her car and drives away.

Now, there are a couple of things I'd like to know right now, dammit! I want to know what "the temple" is. Ben first mentioned that site in this episode. Do you think it might be where the 4 toed statue is?

I also want to know who was in that damn coffin. That's gonna drive me nuts all summer.

And lastly, I want to know if the Others are going to rebel against Ben. We saw a bit of that with Patchy in the Looking Glass hatch, and then again with Price and Tom on the beach. They all seem to know that Ben lies to them, and they don't trust him and don't believe him, but are they going to overthrow him? Enquiring minds want to know.

So that's it for this year. Honestly, I have no clue of what I'm going to watch at all this summer. I'm totally OD'd on lame variety reality shows. Hate American Idol, and I can't seen myself watching any of it's clones. Anyone have any summer suggestions for me?


*SORAS= soap opera rapid aging syndrome: when soap actors go away for a year to boarding school and come back 7 years older.

**furschtinkinur= drunk as a skunk, high as a kite

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Who on earth are they taking about?

So not me. I don't think. No, I'm pretty sure this isn't me. But then again, maybe I don't know myself. Or maybe I lead a double life? Or I have a hidden personality? Or...what? Does this sound remotely like me? You do it too, and tell me if it comes out like you. Because I'm completely confused. Who is this person they're claiming is so "good"? Not me.

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Ode to Oak Trees

Oh mighty Oak
and your cousin Beech
How I loathe you
You try to kill me
every spring

You spread your noxious pollen
all over New England
and expect people
to breathe the air

But dear Oak tree
you have forgotten
that like me,
many of the people
you gather b'neath
your lacy boughs

Are allergic to your
damn pollen
And so hate you
and dream of
noisy chainsaws
that can take you down.

Just when you have
delivered migraine
agony to all your
human neighbors
when you have made
people weep and rub
their itchy eyes

When you have made
the asthmatic wheeze
for clean air you have

You spread your shade and
pretend that you are our friend.

But we do not forget
not for a moment
that not only do you
foul the air we breathe

But you litter the landscape
with your stupid little
wingy things all autumn

Attempting to take over the world
one Mighty Oak at a time.

Just when we have pulled up the
last of your damn seedlings,
You shed your acidic leaves all
over our green lawns

Creating bad backs and even more
allergic reactions to leaf mold.
You are a scourge on the world,
Oh Oak tree.

Had I a saw that buzzed with
the power of emancipation
I would rid the world of your
freakish existence.

Until then, I suffer in darkened
rooms with sinus cavities filled
with snot, and swear to God
that one day, I will eradicate
every last one of you.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I don't like Mondays

Mondays are tough for me. They're the day that I have the most arguments with the kids because it's tough to get out of the weekend routine and back into the chores, homework, getting up early, errands, etc. of the workweek. Monday night is garbage night, the chore that elicits the most arguments of all, even more than the dishes, and the night rarely changes. I'm not sure why I'm always put in the position of being the bad buy when the refuse collectors are really the bad buys. They choose to come early Tuesday mornings, right? It's not my fault at all!

I have nothing clever to say, nothing interesting to report. Blah. School is drawing to a close and I'm beginning to dread the summer. I know it will be OK, but it's going to be hard having both kids home all summer for the first time ever. And it is indeed the first time every. But we'll manage and maybe we will even have some fun.

In the meantime I'm pissed as hell about this season's 24, which sucked. Even the finale sucked. No surprises at all. Jack being all morose at the end. Chloe's big reveal was a total yawn. Like when a woman faints on TV it doesn't mean anything other than a bundle of joy in 9 months. Trite. Soap-opera-ish. Boring. It better improve next year is all I can say. I'm a devoted fan, but I'm losing patience.

The Boy, thinking he was clever, decided to take closeup photos of me while I was napping on the sofa this afternoon. He's such a card. He used the flash. All you could see were seriously enlarged pores. I deleted them immediately! I guess I need to run into Sephora for some skin spackle tomorrow. Evidentally I need it badly.

MCAS for the Boy tomorrow. Standardized testing sucky sweaty donkey balls. Hate it. But we have to do it in this nutty commonwealth. He'll be a total crabcake by tomorrow afternoon, though.

Got a few new cookbooks and I'm enjoying reading them. One has the most fabulous recipes. I'm reviewing them one at a time here.

Living in what is basically a gigantic college town, this is my favorite time of year. Why? Because it's when all the grad students go back to wherever they came from, which means getting rid of all their stuff...cheap. I spend way too much time scouring craigslist for great deals. And boy, have I gotten some. Last year was the best, but as May turns to June, and the students start to panic because they have to dump their belongings, my fortunes might change. Then, in late June, when school is out and families are moving to new places, another rush of yard sales and craigslists ads abound again. That's when I hope to get a new gas clothes dryer for next to nothing!

Oh, and Worthless Pet seems to have stopped his spring "Peeathon" where he pees in the house every freaking day until the weather suits him and he decides that being outside is worth the effort. I was getting mighty tired of following his every footstep with the nature's miracle spray in my hand.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

We got some Culcha today

It's that time of year again. The artists in town throw open their homes and studies for a city-wide art show, and like last year, we were happy to oblige and visit artists in their natural habitat. This year, the weather sucked. It rained all weekend, so people looked bedraggled and a bit 'off'. There weren't as many artists this year as last, and almost everything exhibited would fall into the fine arts category. Not too many craftspersons, which was disappointing to me. I love to see what's new in the wonderful world of handmade crafts. Nevertheless, this afternoon's parade through town introduced us to some wonderful new artists, and allowed us to see many of our old favorites with their latest works. That's always fun.

In one home we saw the most astounding quilts. Oh my goodness, I could have bought every one displayed. They were gorgeous.

This one was so sparkly and intricate. When I see fiber art like this I can't help wonder how many hours went into these pieces. Whatever the cost, they are worth it!

This one I requested for my birthday. Like that's ever gonna happen. But it's just amazing. Little tiny sequins made the snow sparkle. I loved it.

We looked at quite a few different jewelery exhibits. This year seems to be the year of the fused glass beads. Some of the pieces were exceptional.

You can't go wrong with a display of brilliant fruit in your kitchen, can you?

Or maybe you prefer a more traditional still life. Which do you like better?

And let's face it, everyone needs a good fish painting in their bathroom, right?

This artist does the most charming illustrations for children's books. I loved these pictures. So clean and bright and cheerful.

Last year I fell madly in love with this woman's paintings. She does the most beautiful work. It's almost impressionist in style, but realism in execution. Exceptional work. I think her paintings are so calming and peaceful. I almost want to jump right into the scenes.

The Boy exhibits very different taste than mine. This is what he liked best in the show! I liked it too. I'm always up for amusing art, but I'd rather have something a bit less startling on my walls.

These fiber bowls were quite beautiful and the photo does not do them justice at all. I am not sure what you would DO with a bowl like this, except use it for display, but I really liked them.

I wish the weather had been better, but we had a good time, regardless. It's so pleasant to just lose yourself in art, converse with the artists, and, oh... free snacks!

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

We're discussing COLLEGE already?

The Boy's IEP meeting was held Friday afternoon. This was a review meeting after his 3 year testing, so we went over the results carefully with the school psychologist and the education director. Nothing noteworthy other than the FINALLY, after so many frigging years, put dysgraphia into his IEP. This was because the SAT is coming up in the fall, and he'll now be able to take it on the computer instead of filling in those damn circles. This is very good news.

What was most interesting was that his English teacher, who is adorable and looks exactly like what an English teacher should look like, including brown corderoy jacket and shaggy hair, was extremely praiseworthy of the Boy's contributions in class. He also read aloud a paragraph from an essay the Boy had just handed in on Dovstoyevsky's Notes from the Underground, and if I do say so myself, it was brilliant. The kid is so verbal, his vocabulary is so advanced, and he is such a talented writer. It's such a shame that his dysgraphia has gotten in the way of his confidence about writing.

But I digress. After we all listened to the teacher read this paragraph, the guidance counselor looked a bit stunned and said, "Hm, I think Oberlin might be a good school for him to consider. Or maybe Grinnell."

To say I almost fell off my chair would be putting it mildly. Never, and I mean never, had I ever even thought that that caliber of school would have been a possibility for the Boy. I mean, I know he could handle the work, and I know he would probably like going to a smaller private college, but Oberlin? Grinnell? This totally blew my mind. These are great schools. How I could afford to PAY for them is beyond me, but the fact that the guidance counselor and his program director thought that it would be possible to consider them... oh man, it made my heart sing. I almost had tears in my eyes I was so proud of him.

I know this probably makes little to no sense to most of my readers, because much of what I tell you about him are his successes and not his failures, but school has never been good for the Boy. His schooling, since he started at the ripe old age of two in preschool, has been a series of bad and worst experiences. Every year has been a crappy year. Until high school. High school has been good for him. Last year was a fabulous year, with honor rolls and student of the year awards. This year... well, it's been ok. Not great, but decent. He is having some successes, in English, History and Biology. He's doing moderately well in Latin and Math. I'm not unhappy with his performance, although I know he can do much better work. As the end of the school year creeps up on us, I am feeling confident that next year he'll be fine.

But the pressure is ON. MCAS is in a couple of weeks, and this is the test he must pass in order to graduate from high school in MA. I think he'll be fine, all the teachers think he'll be fine, but I do worry about his attention to detail. Oh hell, let's be honest. I just worry, period. You never know with this kid what he's going to do. If he doesn't like the essay question, he might spend the entire time writing an essay about why this is such a stupid question. It's happened before.

PSATs are in October. Then we start looking seriously at what colleges might be a possibility. Next summer will be the year of the college tours. And during the year, the SAT prep class to help with the SATs. I'm so not ready for all of this. It's too fast. He's still my baby.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Does my Dangerous Boy need a Book?

When I first heard tell of the book everyone is talking about in the blogsphere, I thought we honestly didn't need it. I've got a boy that lives dangerously in real life, does he need a book with directions on how to get into even more trouble? But then the Girl and I stopped the other day at our local book emporium and made someone search the gigantic book warehouse for a copy of the book. We sat down on little stepstools set haphazardly in a big aisle corner right in the midst of the cookbooks, and thumbed through The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Illgulden. About 5 seconds into the book, we were both hooked.

The title bothered me right from the start, I'll admit it. I felt it was sexist, especially since the Girl is much more inclined towards building dangerous science experiments for fun. But I looked beyond that when I saw all the cool things in the book.

I had mentioned the book to the Boy when I first heard about it, and he seemed remarkably disinterested in it. But after I brought a copy home, and placed it strategically on the kitchen table, he started looking at it. When he got to the page on How to Build a GoKart, his eyes lit up. Because it's not really a gokart, it's a street luge, and ever since the Malcolm in the Middle episode where Stevie is a street luge expert, the Boy has had a mad desire to try one out.

The Boy dismissed some of the content as too "Boy Scout-like", which is a serious dis in our neck of the woods. But there were things that he liked a lot. He noticed immediately the mistake in the list of baseball MVP awards. But he also liked the list of battles in the ancient world, most of which he's learned about in Latin and world history. He also liked some of the Tips and Tricks, and although he didn't want to admit it to me, some of the science experiments definitely perked his interest. He got really interested in the list of things every boy should have. He's been begging me for a big swiss army knife or a leatherman, and I've been ignoring him. Ok, I'm a tad bit concerned about him owning his own knife. But maybe I'm helicoptering a bit. I think I'll get him one for his birthday. With a good flashlight. And maybe a tent. Just in case he wants to move into the back yard.

Anyhow, the next thing I knew, the book disappeared upstairs with him and he was reading it on my bed in front of the fan.

Now, he's definitely on the very edge of the age group for which this book was designed, and many of the things in the book are already known to him. As sailors, both of my kids know how to tie knots, for instance. And the paper planes... been there and done that. But I think we're going to find plenty of things to do over the summer through perusing this book, and that's a good thing.

I think that this is a great book to have on a family bookshelf. I just wish the title weren't so gender specific. But I can deal. Really I can! And I can promise you we'll be building that street luge. It is just too cool to ignore.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Publicity Stunt or a Real Effort to Learn

I've been following the 4 congressmen and their families that this week are living on what is deemed an average food stamp budget of $3.00 per day. They are blogging the experience, and I think the blog has been very enlightening for the congressmen and their wives, especially the comments that the blog has elicited. I admit, I've commented several times, trying to make them understand that although I appreciate the effort they are making, a week on a limited food budget doesn't come close to actually understanding what it means to be poor. Maybe if they did it for 6 months, living on a very limited income that included payments for rent, utilities, food, clothing, and incidental, they might have a real glimpse into what it means to be poor in America.

For me, one of the most gratifying results of this attempt was reading the comments that other people are leaving. So many stories are similar to mine. So many disabled people that don't qualify for food stamps. So many people that are desperately poor and yet fall through the 'safety net' in this rich country. Most of the time I feel very alone. Nobody I know struggles like we do. Nobody we know has hungry children like I do. I don't know a soul that sends their kids to bed at night, knowing that they are hungry but not being able to do anything about it. I don't know anyone that wears clothing as old as mine, or that can't afford simple things like buying new underwear or socks.

I know that they're out there, but I just don't know them, living in my ultra privileged community filled with million dollar homes. Heck we LIVE in a million dollar home! It would sell for about 45K in North Dakota, but whatever. We know people who give $250 gift cards for birthday presents. It's ridiculous, and we don't even try to compete because we can't.

But I don't know anyone that tries to balance a checking account month after month and seeing a zero balance after the 15th of the month. So when I read about these congressmen, I was a bit insulted that they believe they'll "KNOW" what it's like to be poor after 1 week. Especially after I read what they bought with their $21. Beef. Chicken. Tuna Fish. Apparently they didn't do much research on how to stretch the food budget.

What I'm hoping is that they go into Congress and explain that the cost of living is increasing tremendously in this country, and yet the federal poverty rate, upon which entry into any federal program is based, hasn't changed in dozens of years. Just yesterday I read that the cost of food has skyrocketed lately, due to the price of corn (I KNOW!) that is being diverted from a food commodity to ethanol manufacture. Virtually every item in the grocery store has seen a price increase in the last few months. Some items, like milk, have increased about $.60/gallon in the past month. That's a mega increase. Interestingly, this article also reiterated what I've been claiming for years, that food is more expensive in California than anywhere else in the nation. California. Where food is grown. Pretty odd, huh?

I'm so weary of all this. Poverty is exhausting. Fighting agencies with secret motto's like "First, always deny or decline" is hard, depressing work. I just stood up to yet another one yesterday. I'm sick of it. I don't want to live like this. I want the US to respect its elders, its disabled, and its poor. I want money to stop being diverted from social programs like food stamps and subsidized housing to go to Iraq. That's morally wrong. Taking food from the mouths of American children to spend it on a killing machine in a far off land that did nothing other than own oil is despicable. It needs to stop.

American cannot be a great country if it continues to allow it's citizens to be hungry, homeless, and cold. We need to change this. We need a government that cares about the people who live here. You can help with that. Go comment on this blog. Tell them that you want them to represent the poor. That you want things to turn around. That you don't want to ever hear about another hungry, cold, homeless family again. Use your voice. Tell your representatives to change the federal poverty rate to acknowledge regional differences. Give the poor a raise.

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LOST Discussion Thursday

Well, dayam... that sure didn't end up being the episode I thought it was going to be. All week long my son and I have been talking about Lost theories, and we thought we were doing pretty well. We were way way off.

First, I want to say HELLO to Rose and Bernard, and welcome back. I missed your delightful banter. I love you. But Rose, who was your hairdresser? How did you get such perfect cornrows in the middle of the island? That really bothered me. A lot.

Did you notice:

The Looking Glass had a White Rabbit in their logo. Heh!
The woman Charlie saved in the alley? Did you recognize her? It was Nadia, Sayid's neighbor.
Did you see the white rabbit that Alex was gutting? Plenty of white rabbits in tonight's show.
The Looking Glass hatch turns out to be inhabited. By whom? Dharma, Other's, or???
Naomi's conversation with Charlie about how there was a big outpouring of fans at his 'funeral' and that Drive Shaft put out a Greatest Hits album? Classic!


Charlie, LOST’s often ridiculed rock star, was in need of some serious redemption in this weeks episode. After being chased by the threat of his demise for weeks, it looked like Charlie’s number was finally up when Desmond told him his sacrifice would ensure the rescue of his beloved Claire and Aaron. Sure, Charlie willing to make the sacrifice alone was not going to charm the Charlie weary fans, indeed they were egging him on throughout. What “Greatest Hits” needed to do was turn those negative opinions around, and I think it succeeded. Even with me, and I'm so not a Charlie lover. Now, I have to say that I believe that the whole Desmond story about Claire and Aaron being saved was cooked up in order to get Charlie to take action, something he would never do of his own volition.

What this episode did do was to beautifully set up the 2-hour finale next week. Something else I am terribly pleased to admit that it accomplished with ease. I would say that if you thought you had a pretty good idea of what was coming, you’ll be left completely deflated by the end of tonight's episode. These writers, they are trying to fuck with us. I think they love knowing how we keep thinking we know, and we don't know anything much!

For starters, there is Jack’s plan. Juliet has told Jack all about the Other's plans to come in and kidnap the pregnant women on the beach, and Jack eyes this as the perfect opportunity for an ambush. Danielle has brought the dynamite from the Black Rock and they are going to use it to set traps for “the others” when they arrive at the beach.

However, timing is everything, and their timing was definitely off. Because Alex’s boyfriend Karl (I refer to him as Krazy Karl, or KK) shows up in a outrigger canoe and warns the Losties that the Others are coming a day early because Ben is on a tear after "killing" Locke. Not a good situation at all.

Meanwhile, Sayid is working on a secondary plan. He has Naomi’s satellite phone fixed, but it looks like Danielle’s 16 year-old SOS is broadcasting on all channels and blocking out any other transmissions. (Which didn't make much sense to me, since we KNOW that Patchy was transmitting all the time, but what the heck, I'll go with it for now...) Sayid will get Danielle, (CFL) to show him how to get to the tower, where he wil stop the signal, and radio Naomi’s boat for help. Jack arranges for everyone to go with Sayid, except for the three sharpshooters left with the tents, the dynamite, and the big guns. And one of them is Bernard! Who would have thunk it? Of course this means that when the Other's arrive, they won't be finding any pregnant women, but they will be finding some very large explosions! Kaboom!

Now there's yet another problem. Juliet introduces the flaw in the plan, and in the process the nature of Charlie’s sacrifice. A station called “The Looking Glass” which is underwater is blocking all signals being transmitted off the island, Juliet tells them. She doesn't know anything about it, doesn't know anyone who has been there, etc. Which I find suspicious after seeing the last scene. I am thinking that Juliet isn't trustworthy...again! Anyhow, according to Sayid’s handy Dharma map he stole from Patchy's cabin, the Looking Glass station is deep and flooded. Without scuba gear, turning off the signal is a suicide mission. He does realize, looking at the map, that the big giant cable found on the southern part of the beach will lead them right to the hatch. And since KK has brought the message that the Other's are arriving a day early, he also brought the outrigger canoe, which coincidentally helps with Sayid's plan.

Charlie volunteers for the mission, knowing that his "sacrifice" will save Claire. His flashbacks, which are all disconnected, are memories of the five greatest moments in his life. These are the moments that meant the most to him. Proving to his dad he could swim after being afraid to jump into the pool, hearing the Drive Shaft song on the radio for the first time, saving a woman (Nadia) from a mugging, getting his DS ring that turned out not to be about Drive Shaft at all, but was a family heirloom that his messed up brother passed on to him, and lastly, meeting Claire at the crash site. These well performed set of vignettes are touching, and brings us closer to Charlie’s human aspect than we have ever been before. No longer are we observing the ex-rocker, the junky, the Laurel to Hurley’s Hardy, now we are seeing Charlie as vulnerable and complex human being with a galvanized sense of what makes life worth living. Damnit, we want him to live. I swear it, I kinda teared up a bit when he passes the list to Desmond.

Desmond rows him out to the location of the hatch and offers to take his place. Desmond says that maybe he has saved Charlie all these times to position himself for the sacrifice, to take Charlies place and dive himself. It first looks like Charlie is going to go along with Desmond's change of plan, but then he smacks Demsond unconscious with the oar, and jumps in the water himself. It is a deep swim indeed but the surprise comes when Charlie comes up in what is not a flooded station, but an airlock. He screams with joy about being alive, but celebration is cut short by couple of hawt babes with large guns find him and point, ready to shoot. Uh Oh! Then the sound track pulses to that all familiar gong, and the solitary word “LOST” on the screen. Phew! Tense last couple of minutes.

I've seen some complaints on some of the Lost sites that this episode didn’t really answer any questions, nor present any new information. Which is basically true. But it was a transition episode, setting us up for the big finale, and it was definitely needed. It might have made more sense for Charlie to face his test of life or death in this episode. But that would have meant that Desmond's visions were always correct, and we know for a fact that this one wasn't even close. Charlie didn't drown, and if you think a helicopter is coming to get Aaron and Claire off the island, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Something I never thought I'd have to say

We're sitting at the table eating dinner. The kids are having an animated loud conversation about what music is best on the ipods. Which songs are cool, which songs are whatever. They get into a heated argument about one song, with two different versions, on which version was longest.

Because the discussion is loud and annoying, I totally blank out and stop paying any attention to either of them. And then:

"WHY is your foot in my butt?"

The Girl decided to make herself comfy by sitting sideways, putting her feet up on my chair, and poking me right in the butt. I swear it, the two of them totally lost it. They thought it was the funniest thing they're heard in months.

Fun at the doctor's office!

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Have I told you lately that I love them?

I do. Despite the fact that they are going to drive me straight into the grave if they don't stop bickering.

So, do you think someone has started a slight growth spurt? He's officially my height, or maybe a teeny tiny bit taller. Gulp. Doctor said 6'4". He's well on his way at 5'9".

Ms Petite is 5'3 and a HALF inches tall. Don't forget that half inch.

I cannot WAIT for Lost tomorrow. We've been talking about it non-stop all week. I swear it, we are the most creative family for conspiracy theories in the world. We see dead bodies. Like Charlie.

I have now been up 35 hours straight. Perhaps I should attempt sleep? You think?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ding dong, the Dolt is Dead

Jerry Farwell died a few moments ago. Gosh, golly gee. What a shame. Heh. The founder of the Moral Majority. Mr. Evangelical himself. Hater of women's right to choose, hater of gay and lesbians, hater of Jews, hater of blacks, hater of anything remotely liberal, including all Democrats. Hater of Tinky Winky, for heavens sake! A segregationist. Can you believe it? He was a friend of George Wallace and Lester Maddox. Ugh. He believed that secular education was dangerous and led to.... (it's coming).... atheism! Oh, the horror! He supported apartheid in South Africa. I mean, really...apartheid? Who the hell supported that? The guy blamed Pagans, feminists, lesbians, gays and abortionists for 9/11, What a nice guy, eh? His church was charged with fraud and deceit by the Securities and Exchange Commission. And my personal favorite, Falwell has asserted that when The Antichrist ("The Beast") comes, he "must be, of necessity, a Jewish male." Yeah. Nice.

Can't say I'm gonna miss him. Can't even say Rest in Peace. The guy... he drove me insane in life. I'm sure not sorry about his death. I know, I'm a bitch, but the man was a total asshat. I hope he rots with his Jewish friend, the antichrist. He doesn't deserve anything better.

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Mayor Cohen, does a firefighter have to die?

Another accident caused by old and faulty equipment. It's starting to be a neverending story. Tonight a firetruck fighting a fire at BC in our fair city slipped out of gear, pinning a firefighter under the truck. He had to be rescued by the jaws of life. Five of his fellow firefighters were also injured trying to rescue him, mostly from inhaling fuel fumes and smoke inhalation. Nice combination to try and breathe. The injured firefighter was rushed to the hospital where he's being treated for various fractures and injuries.

A firetruck rolls over a firefighter. Can you imagine? I wonder if he's going to have to run to the local doctor appointed by the moron of our Mayor in order to get time off for recuperation. I bet he does. All the other firefighters do. Our mayor went to war with the firefighters. It was not a popular decision by any means, but the Mayor is ridiculously stubborn. He will not back down. The firefighters are using old, out of date equipment. They work in buildings that are screaming for repairs. They need a raise. We're not a poor community. We could find ways to fund the firefighters, but the Mayor has declared war on them, and so nothing changes. It is shameful.

The townspeople have begin putting signs up in front of their houses all over town, stating "We support our Newton Firefighters". I have one. So do many of our neighbors. You would think the Mayor would see that his support is waning because of this and a couple of other issues ongoing. But nope, he won't change his mind. So the people of the city suffer because the firefighters are working with faulty equipment in faulty headquarters. They're not happy. I don't blame them.

I hope that last night's accident gets the Mayor to look within himself and realize that he is putting our first responders in danger every day they work their jobs. I highly doubt it. But I wish he would.

If you live in our city, please put up a sign letting the firefighters know that you support them. They really need the positive reinforcement.

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