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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Friday, November 30, 2007

The last day of daily posting

This is a friend, posting for margalit since her computer connection is down. But she didn't want to miss the last day of the 30 days of posting when she's made all of the other 29.

La di dah. What should I write about?

I am glad when Chanukah is separated in time from that Christian holiday at the end of the month. Even though I have bought into the gift giving stuff, my approach to it is mostly littler things. Certainly no one in my house (however much they whine) is getting a laptop computer or mega-amounts of games. One year, we did have to upgrade the kids' computer, but that was their major present that year. But I like them to have something to open on every night.

Of course, mom is lucky if she has 2 gifts to open the whole time..... It's just when I get presents for my DH and I'm lucky if he has given me any thought. Actually, this can be a very depressing time of year. I do like the kids' enjoyment of the stuff that I've so carefully picked out (not always).

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why are our children being left behind?

This story was originally posted at The Voices Project. There was not one of this post I could leave out. Here, in plain old black and white, is exactly what I've been reporting with regards to children's services in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I'm not making this up. Poor children are NOT served by the Commonwealth. The disparity between rich and poor in this state is severe, much more severe than in other states. The rich get much much richer, the poor lose their services and are destined to suffer because the Commonwealth gave up caring when they started appointing Republicans as governors. Mitt Romney was the worst, by far, but the legacy of depriving the poor goes back a long way, all the way back to Bill Weld.

I wish I could find one untrue statement in this article, but I can't. It honestly is this bleak, if not bleaker. All I can say is, if you know that you have spare funds and you live in the Commonwealth, give generously not just during the holiday season, but the year round. The poor depend upon your generosity because the Commonwealth will not provide even basic funding.

And again I beseech you, please talk to your federal representatives about the punitive poverty level. As long as the poverty level is calculated at 1960's levels, NOTHING will change about how the poor are served in this country. If you care about averting such gross poverty, the only thing that will really count, beyond social services, beyond government handouts, beyond anything else, is to change the Federal poverty levels, count geographic differences, and to raise the level so that it is fair across the board.

ChildThe cover headline of yesterday's Boston Metro blared "Mass.'s poor children are being left behind" and "Child welfare report ranks state dead last in caring for needy kids." The headline is not nearly as shocking to those, like myself, that have or know children living in poverty unable to gain the early childhood development supports they need from lack of funding, age restrictions, and/or accessibility. The article cites a report by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, stating:

"The report ranks the Commonwealth 50th in the well-being of low-income children based on over 102,000 interviews nationwide that focused on health status, social and emotional well-being, cognitive development and educational attainment, family activities, family and neighborhood context, and socio-economic characteristics. …Among the six categories, Massachusetts ranked last in health status and in social and emotional well-being for low-income children. It was 49th in cognitive development and educational attainment."

The article adds:

"Despite the state’s dismal showing in terms of low-income children [that is, children living in household that earn less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level], it ranked 21st for those in high-income families and 26th overall. Because of this Massachusetts had the largest disparity of ranking from high- to low-income children."

According to recent reports, Massachusetts is the 5th wealthiest state in the nation (CNN). So, how can a wealthy state like ours—with one of the lowest percentages of children living in poor households in the nation—be ranked the lowest when it comes to child welfare and well-being in essential categories such as health and cognitive development?!

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Every picture tells a story

I wish I had my camera up and running, but that won't happen until Hanukkah. Not that I know what I'm getting for Hanukkah or anything (thank you MotherTalk, you got me JUST what I wanted!). Heh.

I've mentioned oh, about a bazillion times, that the Boy has an issue with cause and effect. Like, say, with laundry. Here is an example. If you don't take your laundry downstairs and put it into the washer and then the dryer (cause) then you don't have anything to wear because all your clothes are filthy and disgusting (effect). Simple, eh? Well, not so simple if you're the Boy.

This morning, when I woke him up, he started in on how he had nothing to wear. The truth is, he hasn't had anything to wear in weeks because he does not do his laundry. Now it's all gathered up into plastic bags because he's also filled up all the laundry baskets in his room, but that's beside the point. He can't seem to get the dirty laundry from the second floor to the basement. You know what? It doesn't magically go through two flights of stairs, push itself into the washer, and then transfer itself into the dryer. I know! It's just unthinkable!

So I give him the cause and effect talk, because there is nothing more I like to do than talk to walls. That's about how well it sinks in with him. Maybe the walls are more porous. I'm not sure. I do know that he whinged and whined about having no 'pantalones' because what's better than whining in foreign languages? Finally, sick of hearing his voice, I offer him a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt from my own wardrobe. He makes some nasty comments about my taste in clothing and the possible fit issues, but I toss the sweats onto his stupid blow-up video game chair, and go downstairs. I mean, how much of this crap can a nice person take?

A few minutes later he comes downstairs wearing my Manny t-shirt and my forest green sweat pants, which fit a lot better than he thought they would. I helped him tighten the drawstring, and he's all happy because they are so comfortable. He says:

" You have the BEST clothes, mom. They are always so comfortable. I really like your clothes."

Just what warms the cockles of a mom's heart. When her SON gushes on about sharing her clothing with her. OMG, what the hell is wrong with this picture?

Now don't you wish you had a picture of him in my clothes?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baby, it's cold outside

Yesterday it was in the 60's when I woke up. Right now it's in the 30's. My educated guess is that Indian Summer has finally crept away and winter has arrived. Damn. I'm not fond of winter. Oh, I like to look at winter. Snow is so pretty from inside your house where it's toasty and warm. But dealing with snow? Wearing all those clothes? Constantly losing gloves? Blech!

However, now that it's cold, I get to wear my all time favorite shoes. You know them, you love to hate them, but I don't give a damn because they're comfortable, warm, and you don't have to wear socks with them. Yup... me loves de'Uggs. Loves them.

And what's not to love? They're furry. They feel like slippers. They come in a variety of colors and styles. Did I mention that they're warm and furry?

Look. Just look. Aren't these adorable? To me they look like those embroidered outfits they wear in Scandanavia. I love them.

These are a bit more subtile, but still give you a certain flair.
Want to look like you're in a Ralph Lauren ad? That's sheepskin on the outside. Love them!

How about these. Totally scream both comfort and warmth. They would look great with skinny jeans or even (God help me) leggings.

Or these? Totally cute with jeans and a nice furry matching vest.
Need a short boot to wear with pants? Or a skirt and nice warm thick tights? How about these? Cute, sharp looking, and again...toasty warm!
How about those days when you around plowing through snowbanks on your way to the post office. You need a shoe to wear inside that's warm, right? Well, these are Uggs, too!
OK, so you hate Uggs. I can handle that. But if you hate them and still live in a snowy climate and want to look fashionable, how about Doc Martins?

They're not warm, they're not furry, but damn they are cute. I love these!

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Cry me a river

I honestly don't know where to start. There is just so much going on and of course, some of it I can't share, and other stuff that's too painful to write about right now. I'm too close to it. I need time to step back from the chaos and reflect on what's real, what's myth, and what is about to be.

Yesterday I just broke down. I don't break down as a rule. In fact, it's so rare that I completely lose control that when it happens, people just don't know how to react. I'm not, by nature, a cryer. Oh, I sob at a good movie just like so many do, but to cry about my own pain, my own tsuris just isn't the norm. So when I break down, I know it's all just too much to bear. I cried and cried. I was crying for the pain my son feels. I cried for me and my agony. I cried because I can't control what is happening anymore. I cried because I'm tired, frustrated, angry, sad, and just plain out of energy. I cried because I don't want this to be happening to me or to my little family. I cried because it's all so unfair. I cried because we've suffered enough, we have no more left to bear all this pain. I cried because my faith is so badly shaken. What kind of just God would let some families have so much pain while other families soar through life unscathed? I cried until there was no more left to cry with.

My eyes stung, my head ached, my nose was red and blotchy. I was still crying when the Boy came home from his program. When he found me curled up on my bed in tears, unable to even speak, he FINALLY got that what's happening is serious. Until that moment, it just didn't sink in. I told him that the 'experts' wanted to put him in residential and he cried too. We cried together. At first he started blaming the program but I called him on it and told him that only he could make a difference now. Everyone else had formed plans based on his behavior. The only way he could evoke change is to make changes in his behavior. He had to clean up his room. He had to take a shower. He had to do his chores. He had to do so without telling me that I'm mean and that he hates me. He had to stop swearing. No cigarettes. No more crazy antics. No more misbehaving. There was nobody else that could make these changes. I couldn't protect him any more. He had to do it all himself, and he had to do it now. If he could manage to show me and the therapists that he could actually respond appropriately, then things might change. But if he couldn't, than only he was responsible at this point.

For once he heard me. He never hears me. He just argues. But he went into his room and bagged up 4 bags of laundry and a couple of bags of trash. There is a floor. Or at least a partial one. Of course the laundry is still sitting in the upstairs hall, but at least he's making SOME attempt, which he's never done before. He even took a shower totally on his own and brushed his teeth this morning. He's trying. I think he gets how serious this all is, and he wants to do better. I don't expect this good will to last long, in fact it he makes it through today I think it's will be miraculous. We've already argued about him doing the dishes that he left overnight. He washes one, then needs a 'rest'. Oh my God, it is so frustrating.

I don't expect that things will change. He's on the waiting list for the 45 day interim placement, and when it comes up, he's going. He needs the structure desperately. He needs a reminder about what will happen to him if he doesn't not get his act together right now.

But in his defense, the 'experts' have finally labeled him drug resistant. How long did that take? Oh, since last August when I first started complaining that his meds weren't working. Or even before, in May, when he was hospitalized and I begged for a drug change.

I've made my feelings crystal clear to the DMH that he's ONLY going to one of two hospitals, and ONLY to this particular program. Nothing else will suffice. Most of what there is out there is simple warehousing of kids. This state isn't much different from your state. There is no money for mental health care, especially for children. Thank you Mitt Romney for cutting mental health care for kids to the bone and beyond. A vote for him is a vote to end any social services as we know them today. And we know them as barely functioning and unsatisfactory at best. He'll only make it worse. Ask anyone in MA who is dealing with state agencies what affect he had on the children of this Commonwealth. Then sit back and prepare to hear what he has done to destroy social services whilst running for President. While he's bragging about how he cut government spending to the bone, those of us living with his cuts are desperate for help that we can't get. ONE frigging 45 day program in the entire state. ONE. For every kid between 13 and 18 in the state. ONE. Thank you, asshole Romney.

We're in a holding pattern. The Boy was sick last night and threw up at 3:10 am. How do I know? Because he woke me up to announce it. Several times. Some things never change. He's home today laying on the sofa and complaining about how hard his life is because he has to do chores. Damn straight he has chores to do. The ones he hasn't done in the past month or two.

Crying helped. But I still feel so incredibly sad. I hate that Mental Illness is treated like a crime in this country. I hate that people with mental illness are shunted aside due to cost cuts. I hate that there is so little opportunity for treatment as the kids grow older, and that once they are 18, health care is basically taken away. I hate that I feel so victimized when I try to fight the system.

But most of all, I hate that I have to do all this alone. It's too damn hard.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mania is crushing my soul

I found myself sitting in the dark on the toilet downstairs. It was the only place where I could go to get away from him. He follows me everywhere, talking, yelling, insulting, complaining. The verbal diarrhea never stops. The moaning, the noises... it's frightening and depressing and just too much for my brain to handle. I find myself retreating ever inward, hoping against hope that it will stop. It doesn't stop. It's been going on since August and I'm just over it. I watch my son, my baby, my love deteriorate before my eyes. Piece by piece falls off of him, leaving a core of crazy that I don't recognize and I don't like. He keeps saying "You don't love me" and sometimes it's true. I don't love the behavior. I don't love the mania, I hate it. I hate it with every fiber of my being. It has stolen my child and put this loony in his place.

We have many experts that work with our family. They are therapists and doctors and psycho pharmacologists. They are all stumped. Everyone is on the same page with regards to the behavior. It's intolerable, it's impossible, it can't be helped because it's organic. We all know this. We even accept it, regardless of how much it hurts. The problem is, the behavior must be tamed and we can't find a way to do this. We try to adjust medications, but we don't go far enough. We try to adjust the behavior but the Boy isn't able to make the necessary changes. He's too far gone. He doesn't recognize himself without the mania. He doesn't accept that he's driving everyone around him mad with anger.

Today the program that he's in called, admitting defeat. They see the same things I do, it's not working for them. I knew it wasn't going to work, but the way it works when you have an adolescent with mental illness is to work the steps, until you finally get some help. The steps are in school, then day program, then residential program. We're headed for the residential program but he is so off kilter that he doesn't even understand that this is what's next in the lineup. I tell him because he must be informed, but it doesn't seem to sink in.

My heart is broken. My special child is broken. I don't believe anymore that he can be fixed. I once did, but this episode, this months long episode of mania has killed my hope. My spirit is dragging on the floor. The sadness and despair that I feel right now is incapacitating. Mental illness is contagious. The more the crazy, the sadder the family surrounding the crazy.

The Girl is handling it well, although I see her spirit beginning to flag. It is so hard. She went back to school today, on a reduced schedule. She's glad to be back, overwhelmed with what being back represents. She's going to be OK. She's going to grow up and be fine. I believe in her ability to bounce back. But she needs a life that isn't overshadowed by her brother's illness. She deserves more than she's getting. I worry for her that this re-occurring cycle of anger will continue to thrust forward with each new mania of his.

We all need more. More support, more luck, more money, more health, more sanity. If you are a praying sort of person, please pray for us all. Our family could use all the prayers you can muster.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, Sleepy Sunday

Grocery store, chores, cooked turkey dinner for family, fell asleep on sofa, worked with Neener, looked up some blog and web site designs, laughed, listen to kids fight and fight some more. Oh my goodness, what a boring day.

My house is either freezing cold or boiling hot, depending upon what room you're in and what time of day it is. We have two heating zones. They make NO sense whatsover. None. One zone does the living room, my bedroom, the downstairs bathroom, and the Girl's bedroom. The other zone does the dining room, kitchen, upstairs bathroom, Boy's bedroom, and front hall. Does this make ANY sense at all? Nope, it doesn't. But then again, the shower faucets are backwards, there isn't any working hot water in the downstairs bathroom, and all sorts of other plumbing anomalies that come from someone doing it themselves, unfortunately.

I didn't sleep one wink last night as I'm trying to get onto some sort of schedule. I am due to go to the sleep clinic on Tuesday night. I'm getting tested for sleep apnea. Joy oh joy.

I'm reading the strangest book, Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I like the book, but I think it's for a very specialized audience. One that understands Yiddish and black hat Judaism. The premise is that the Jews that survived WW2 were imported to southern Alaska where they were settled for 40-odd years outside Sitka. They created an entire Yiddish-speaking society that is now about to end, as the land they were settled upon is reverting back to America. It's so odd.

We had our Thanksgiving Part Deaux dinner tonight. Herbed Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts. YUM. I didn't get around to more pies. But I've got the fixin's for pumpkin, apple, blueberry, and pecan. I do love a nice homemade pie!

NaBloPoMo is almost over. Will you be posting every day come December? I know I will, but I do so anyhow. I just don't worry if I might miss a day because Verizon Fios is being a buttface.

And now, perchance to dream. I'm off to snorgle with the Worthless Pet as soon as I get a certain young man to get the hell out of the kitchen and off to bed. Yawn.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm paper challenged

Before we even start on my whinge of the day, you must go right this second to Quinn's blog and read this post. Now. Not later, NOW. I'll wait. dum de dum de dummm dummmmmmm.

Oh, you're back? Well howdy, pardner. And wasn't that just a fine post to get you into the "enough with the crap' holiday spirit? I think Quinn should win awards for that one. She's brilliant. If you don't read her, start now. I love her. And to think I used to watch her as a child star on TV and think that she was just the kind of kid I wanted, smart, snotty, and a tad bit devious. Heh... I was a moron, ok?

So anyhow, today the Girl started looking for something I had slipped into an envelope weeks ago in order to keep it 'safe'. You all know where this is going, right? Anything that you need to keep 'safe' is going to get lost immediately. I mean what are the odds that you'll keep that envelope right where you put it, safe and sound? In our house, about 95:1.

Poor kid was looking for the envelope for a really long time. Why? Because I'm paper challenged. I pile papers everywhere. I mean ever-freaking-where. I have a pile to the right of the desk. A pile to the left of the desk. A pile atop the monitor. A pile on the big box below the desk. A big box that is crammed full of paper. Another pile on the coffee table. And one on the side table. One on the sideboard. One next to my bed. One on top of my TV. I am hopeless. I can't seem to get rid of all the paper. There are days when I honestly wish my house would catch fire so all the paper would just go away.

I'm not a hoarder. No, really I'm not. I'm just paper challenged. I can't seem to go through my mail and throw stuff out. I save old bills for NO reason other than I do. Until I get pissed off and toss them. Of course, the second I toss anything, I need it. I can't throw out anything like a user manual that comes with an appliance. I keep them all, even for stuff like the vacuum I recently bought. Why? I don't KNOW WHY. I know how to run a vacuum. I don't need the manual, but I can't throw it out. Because I am paper challenged.

Part of the problem is, having special needs kids means a huge amount of paper. Tests, reports, school crap, IEPs, blah blah blah.... it's paper everywhere. Whole piles of papers that I have to keep. Medical records. School records. Psych records. You name it, my kids have it, and it all needs to be saved. By me. A paper whore.

I know it's time for a cleanout. I just did it like a week ago, and it's time again. I'll toss stuff, but it breeds. The catalogs are coming fast and furious and I have to at least look at them, right? We get a lot of magazines (all free...ask me how) here, and I have trouble tossing them all. I do eventually, but it's hard. I recycle as many as I can, but they come faster than I can get to the library to get rid of them.

I want people to stop sending me paper. Just stop it. Give it to me digitally or not at all. But stop killing trees to drown me in paper, please.

No, she didn't ever find the envelope. I'm not surprised.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cruise Ship Sinks, Titanic Theme Becomes Earworm

The second I saw that news story on the cruise ship that hit a submerged iceberg off Antarctica, I got that damn Titanic theme song stuck in my ear. Celine Dion does not a nice ear worm make. I'm not a fan of Celine. She makes incredibly creepy faces when she sings, and I don't particularly like either her voice or her choice of songs. But no matter what, she's associated forever with the Titanic story, much to my chagrin. I'm old enough to remember when Titanic meant A Night To Remember, a movie that in my mind did a lot better in conveying the tragedy of the sinking of this magnificent ship on her maiden trans Atlantic voyage.

Regardless, what an amazing story. A cruise ship with hundreds of tourists aboard hits a submerged iceberg in broad daylight. The ship begins listing, even though the bilge pumps continue to work. The passengers disembark into the lifeboats in the middle of the freezing sea, float around for several hours before being picked up by a Norwegian rescue ship. Nobody is hurt, nobody suffers from hypothermia, nobody dies. I bet they were scared to death, but the fact is, the system worked just like it's supposed to. Communications weren't ignored, the bilge pumps worked long enough for a complete evacuation of the ship, and then long afterwards, the passengers and crew didn't panic, there were enough life boats for everyone... it all worked correctly. Now we don't have to fear another Titanic disaster because lessons were learned, for once, and what could have been a terrible tragedy was instead a Wow! Amazing! story instead.

But I still can't get rid of that damn earworm!


Today the Girl had a bunch of friends over. She had so much fun, but at one time there were 6 teenagers in the house, which is a bit of an overload. They were all well-behaved once the Boy and his friends all left (3 more transient visitors) to hang out at someone else's house. I realized today that we were once again the place to hang out, albeit only one group at a time. The Girl and the Boy have very different friends, and they don't get along well together. I'm trying to get them to respect each other's choices in friends, but mostly they don't care to. As long as they aren't rude to each other, that's fine. They don't have to be best buddies. But they do have to be polite and cordial.

The Girl's friends baked some cupcakes but got stuck on making the frosting, which I had to do for them. They are all so used to eating canned frosting, an abomination I will not even allow in my house, that they don't like the taste of butter cream icing. So disappointing to see. I don't get why they would rather eat a package of chemicals than sugar, butter, and some lemon juice. Go figure.


Black Friday. Do not get it. I saw on the news the stampede at some mall in Idaho. WHY? Can someone please explain this phenomenon to me? I like bargains as much as the next person, but honestly, 4 am? What the F? Whatever you save in money, is it worth it to risk life and limb? Why not just shop online? I had a couple of things to purchase today, which I did online at a highly reduced price and in the comfort of my own home. Do you actually find things for so much cheaper that it's worth the trouble of standing on line at 3:30 am for a 4 am opening at Kohls? KOHLS? Please tell me why you would do this. I honestly don't get it.


Camera advice. Is it worth it to get a 2 gig memory card for a 7.2 megapixel camera? Or is a 1 gig card enough? I know the higher the pixels, the more memory you need, but don't you download pictures instead of keeping them on the memory card. Right now, every time I download my pictures, I delete them from the memory card. Isn't that common practice? Why would I want to keep my pictures on the memory card? Oh, my pictures are on a remote hard drive, so that they're safe from any terrible disaster that might befall my elderly computer. We also have a 2 gig flash drive that carries pictures the kids like to carry around with them (one of the perqs of my former job was free flash drives). I guess I'm wondering what reason you would need for a bigger memory card AND how you should store your .jpgs longterm. Anyone?

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Seven Facts about Me

I've been tagged by Daisy at Compost Happens. I haven't done a Meme in the longest time. In fact, I can't remember the last time I have, so I figured I wouldn't ignore this one, as I do so many others, because it's an easy one and I'm essentially lazy. For me, easy is always best. These are the rules:

  1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
  3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
  4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven facts? I don't even know if I can think of seven facts that you don't know about me, but I'll try.

  • I don't find NaBloPoMo challenging at all. I post everyday anyhow, and to me, this is a breeze. I've posted at least once a day, if not more, for 4 years now. I either have a better talent for blathering on and on, or am so trained to write daily that it doesn't really affect me at all to do it under what other people feel is a stressful situation. Sorry!
  • I love going to auctions. I've bought most of the stuff in my house, including furniture, at auctions. I like the thrill of bidding, I love the previews where you can poke around and feel all the stuff, and I love seeing my auction buddies, people I've met over the years who attend the same auctions I do. Nothing is more entertaining than a really good auction!
  • I used to be a potter, but had to quit because I got such severe arthritis in my hands from the damp clay that I was essentially crippled. I miss it and wish I could throw pots again, but it's out of the question.
  • I was a terrible student in high school, a better student in college, and an excellent student in graduate school. I think I was the classic late bloomer, because I just didn't get the whole student thing until I was much older. This makes me much less worried about the Boy than other parents might be, because I have high hopes that he'll eventually straighten out and be the good student I know he can be.
  • I am terribly disorganized and spend much of my time intimidated by all the forms I never fill out and letters I don't answer. I mix up appointments, forget anything that isn't written down, and often screw up with things that have deadlines. I believe this is a reaction to having strict deadlines for all of my working career, deadlines that I never once missed. When I stopped working, I just mentally blew off deadlines, leaving me a disorganized mess.
  • I wear three different kinds of glasses. One for seeing everything, one for seeing the computer, and one for reading. I used to have bifocals but they drove me nuts. I can't wear contacts because I have an enzyme missing in my tears, and so I have chronic dry eyes. Contacts actually rip inside my eyes. It isn't good.
  • I am probably the only writer in the history of the world that doesn't want to write a novel. I tried once. It was horrible. I'm not a fiction writer. My imagination isn't that good. I like reportage. I like facts. I can't ever see me writing a memoir. I have no inner poetry. That's why I was an excellent technical writer. Procedures... I can rattle them off in a heartbeat. But writing from my heart is hard.
I'm not going to tag anyone in particular. But if you are NaBloPoMo challenged and need something to write, help yourself. So consider yourself tagged!

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Nary a Leftover in Sight

This is a first. It has never ever happened before. But it did today. We had ten people for dinner. All teenagers or adults. I made a 14 lb turkey, a huge platter of stuffing, sweet potatoes, 2 cranberry sauces and two pies. We also had green beans (no casserole, just the beans), broccoli, roasted potatos, tzimmes, 2 more cranberry sauces, some kind of mushrooms, and brownies. Now that seems like a lot of food, doesn't it?

There was nothing left. Sweet potatoes gone. Turkey picked down to the carcass. Veggies gone. One little bit of apple pie and a couple of brownies left over. Otherwise, food was gone. The weird thing? Nobody was stuffed. We ate, no doubt about it, but it was all so good and such a nice mix of healthy to unhealthy that without overeating we totally demolished the dinner. Oh, it was so good, too. The turkey was perfect, the pecan pie was to die for, the sweet potato casserole was such a hit there wasn't even a hint left over to pick at.

I'm going to do it all over again on Saturday. Oh, maybe not SO much food, but a couple of pies, a turkey, stuffing, and another sweet potato casserole. The Boy wants to have friends over. So again with the no leftovers!

How was your holiday?

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy National Day of Enforced Gluttony

Yes, Turkey Day has finally arrived. This is a day I look forward to all year. I'm always happy to be thankful, but I'm always happier to have a really fine feast. Great good, great parade, fine friends and family. What better can you get? OK, maybe a bit of family dysfunction, which always is great blog fodder, but this year I think we're OK on that score.

We actually made it through an entire day with not one fight. Plus, the Girl has been working hard on not swearing and asked the Boy to try harder to remove the F word from his speech. I'm working to reinforce this as well. Should be interesting. Having the Girl home means freshly painted fingernails for Mommy, a house that already looks like a cyclone struck it, and a ton of kids in the house. She's so happy to be home, to see and talk to her friends, and to hug the Worthless Pet. After weeks away from any furry being, she's finally agreed that she too is allergic to cats. That makes all 3 of us, and yet, we have a cat. A cat that is so happy to see his Girl that he follows her around like a shadow.

I fell asleep before making the last pie, so I have to do it later on, but everything else is right on schedule. Dinner at 6. I'm already salivating. The pecan pie I made looks so outstanding. I'm not one to like a small layer of nuts and a bunch of the gooey stuff. Nope, I like a pie that is thick with nuts. It's something you only eat once a year, why not make it super indulgent? That's my motto!

For those of you lame enough to be blogging on Thanksgiving Day, and for my international readers who are probably sick to death of Thanksgiving posts, I swear that this will be my last word on the subject. After I gloat about how wonderful the dinner was. Deal?

Gooble gobble gobble.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Girl is home

It took hours, and a bit of finagling, but the Girl is finally home. I haven't been so happy in weeks. The Worthless Pet is so glad to see her that he didn't even do the old "turn my back on those dumb humans" thing. He just lept into her arms and settled in for a long snuggle. I guess I've been a poor substitute for the real thing.

Her friends are coming over, she's already on the phone, life goes on.

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I'll take "Frustration" for $200, Alex

You know that feeling of running and running and getting nowhere? Welcome to my world. I feel like I should change my name to Ms Frustrated, because I spend way too much time and energy stuck in the land of frustration. A land, I might add, that I really don't want to visit.

Besides dealing with the inane regulations of The Ride on a daily basis, I'm also dealing with teenagers. Remember way back when, when your kids were little and you thought "Oh, it's going to be so great when they're older and we can be friends?" Think again, my blogging buddies. You're going to be a Frienemy but not a friend. You can't be a friend because you believe that there should be these strange things called "Rules". Obviously, you're deluded, because teenagers don't believe in things called Rules. They think that they should be able to do whatever they want, when they want, and if you don't like it, tough luck. This is the basis of living in the land of frustration. You want order in your life, your teenagers strive for the chaotic. Instant frustration for everyone!

The Girl will be coming home tomorrow morning. She has already laid down ultimatum after ultimatum about what she WILL be doing. Ahem. Life doesn't work like that, however. She doesn't want to clean her room, she doesn't want to help cooking (shocking!), she wants to drop off her crap and leave the house and go see all her friends. Unfortunately for her, I don't want her disappearing off the face of the earth for hours at a time with her 'friends', many of whom I'm not particularly enamoured of right now. Again, Instant Frustration. We appear to be at a standstill, because I'm not budging and she's bitching to beat the band.

The Boy has a full day of his program tomorrow and he is pissed. He wants to stay home to greet the Girl, who couldn't care less if he's even alive. Feelings are very high on both sides of this issue. She's not budging in inch, his feelings are hurt and all he wants to do is strike back at her. Wow, it's gonna be So Much Fun!

Meanwhile, I have yet to do a damn thing about dinner Thursday because what I do all day is negotiate, get to appointments on a time schedule that is dictated by a Godless State Agency who hate all their customers and are out to screw them, and then wait and wait and wait. I do not wait well. I want to move, not wait.

So it's high pressure and high frustration around here, which makes me just more exhausted and more desired of my nice fluffy bed. That's my safe spot.

It will all get done and it will be fine and we'll handle it on a minute-by-minute basis. But Geesh, could it just be easy just once in my life?

Meanwhile, I had a wonderful dream last night that someone left $25,000 in my PayPal account. Unfortunately, that dream did not come true. But in my dream I took $20K and bought a car for cash. I've never ever had that kind of money to just buy a car for cash, but in the dream I did this great car deal and got everything I wanted because I was paying cash.

Now, I have no clue if you get better deals if you pay in cash, but all I can say is, this was a great dream! Nothing like negotiating with car salesman in your sleep. It's all so much easier that way.

Speaking of economics, check out the daily deals on Amazon that I have in my left sidebar. If you click through there to shop at Amazon, I'll get getting a small amount of revenue for every purchase you make. That revenue will be donated to the local homeless shelter for hats and mittens for the kids. Last year we made hats, scarves, and mittens, but this year I'm having enough trouble getting out of bed and can't really be making anything other than dinner. So I'm doing my bit through donations. Be a good egg and click through when you're searching on Amazon for great Holiday deals.

What's the first commercial you see on TV that says "it's really that time of year"? For me it's the Chi chi chi Chia Pet! commercial. The Boy says that I'm wrong, and it's the Hess Truck commercial. What is it for you?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

There's a homecoming in our future

Can you see what that is in the picture? Let me give you a big hint. We eat it on Thursday. And it wanders wild all over the neighborhood. Guessed? Yup, it's Tom Turkey! Coming to visit us.

Tomorrow the Girl is supposed to be coming home. Supposed to be? Well, yes. The hospital, being all touchy-feeling and all, forgot that I don't have transportation and didn't notify me that she can come home until well after 5:30. Which is 1.5 hours after the Ride closes it's reservations for tomorrow. Nice! Excellent planning, huh? So I've got to wait till the crack of dawn tomorrow to hopefully get on the list for a same day ride. Most days, it's impossible. Maybe I'll have better luck tomorrow. If not, she comes home Wed. morning.

Much has happened in the past week or so, all of which I can't really share, but it has been a rollercoaster of craziness for the Girl and coming home seemed to be the right thing to do. Of course the Boy is now over-reacting, because that's his specialty, but ultimately he'll be fine with it. He misses her, as do I. But the house has NEVER been cleaner since she's been away. To say that she is the ultimate slob would be unkind, but sadly true. That child has no clue of what "put it away" means. Away simply means some place else, equally inappropriate.

Because the Boy has had the house to himself (meaning I don't count) for the past few weeks, an electronic jungle has rooted in the hallway upstairs, essentially blocking both the linen closet and the doorway to the Girl's room. I've got him dismantling it right now, so she will be able to get in to her room. What he plans to do with the computer he's building is beyond me, because there is no room for it in his room, which is jam packed with dirty clothes, guitars, and other electronics, but he'll figure something out.

Meanwhile, I seem to have finally gotten the better of the coughing crud after two full days in bed. I feel alive and can actually breathe. It's amazing how much better one feels with some actual oxygen in their bloodstreams. My friend from Nashville called this weekend to chat and she's also got the same coughing crud, so we coughed at each other. It sounded like two barking dogs chatting. It was pathetic.

Now I've got to go start cooking, which I have totally and completely neglected due to serious and miserable lack of interest and energy. I'll get it together. It will be fine. The Girl will be home for a couple of days to 'help', which she NEVER does. She's not good kitchen material. I get my kitchen help from the Boy, who actually enjoys cooking and will do a decent job of it with only minimal complaining. He gets the whole cause an effect thing. Since eating is his hobby, he's willing to help cook.

Kudos to both Curt Shilling and Mikey Lowell for resigning with the Red Sox, giving all of Red Sox Nation something to be uber-thankful for this Thanksgiving. MVP Mike Lowell is a testicular cancer survivor, an amazingly nice and articulate player, and a neighbor. We're lucky to have quite a few Red Sox players live in our little city, and we certainly didn't want to lose Mike. Especially to the devils in pinstripes. But they have (smirk) A-Rod for only $257 MILLION DOLLARS (say it like Mr Evil) over 10 years. What the heck can one do with that much money? I mean, once you buy a few houses and a lot of cars, just what else can you buy with that kinda cash? I certainly hope he's philanthropic, but I don't ever remember reading that he is. Anyone know?

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Monday, November 19, 2007

How Lucky Do YOU Feel?

I'm choosing column A.

What about you? How lucky do you feel?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sad, but true

A few nights ago the Boy had a friend over for the afternoon and evening. During dinner, the friend and I got into a heated discussion over the fate of Israel. This friend had his bar mitzvah at our former Conservadox synagogue, meaning he attended Hebrew classes and Sunday School for many years. Yet, the ignorance he displayed during our discussion was breathtaking. Like many teens, he's very idealistic and started out the discussion saying that he didn't believe that any war was a just war, and that Israel was much too aggressive against it's neighbors. He apparently didn't know much of the history of the formation of Israel, so we went back to pre-war Palestine, which was then ruled by the British.

A brief history of Israel's creation

The same British that refused to allow Jews escaping Europe to land on Palestine's soil. Yeah, those British. So I informed him that under British rule there were still Jews in residence, and that when the British decided to create the State of Israel in 1948, there were only a couple hundred thousand Arabs spread out over a desolate land. The British BOUGHT land from the Palestinians, and after the State of Israel was created, that land was given to the Jewish citizens to create their own country. This is a simplistic explanation, but it's what happened.

Shortly after the creation of Israel, Egypt and Syria attacked the fledgling country in the war of independence. They were soundly defeated by Israel, which gained land in the Sinai desert from Egypt. After that war, Israel built up it's cities, brought modernism and democracy to the Middle East, and turned the desert into a vibrant farmland. Did you know that the rainbird sprinkler was invented in Israel to water large tracts of land? Yup.

Between 1948 and 1955 there was a massive amount of immigration, most of which consisted of Holocaust survivors from Europe who had no where else to go. Around 700,000 Jews moved to Israel during this time period.

In the 1967, Israel was again attacked in a short but violent war called the Six Day War. Syria and Egypt were once again the aggressors, determined to destroy this tiny country. Instead, Israel fought back and gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem from which the Jews had been banned. or the first time since the end of the British Mandate, Jews could visit the Old City of Jerusalem and pray at the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, to which they had been denied access by the Jordanians.

During the next decade, immigration from the Soviet Union was in full force, adding many more Jews to Israel's population. Syria banned the PLO from it's country and they relocated to Lebanon where they renewed their vow to anhilate Israel.

The Yom Kippur War began on October 6, 1973, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and a day when adult Jews are required to fast. The Syrian and Egyptian armies launched a surprise attack against the unprepared Israeli Defence Forces. For the first few days there was a great deal of uncertainty about Israel's capacity to repel the invaders, however the Syrians were repulsed and, although the Egyptians captured some territory in Sinai, Israeli forces crossed the Suez Canal and were heading towards Cairo when a cease fire was agreed. Although the war's results were generally favourable to Israel, it cost over 2,000 dead and resulted in a heavy arms bill. The war generally made Israelis more aware of their vulnerability. Following the war, both Israelis and Egyptians showed greater willingness to negotiate. On January 18, 1974, a Disengagement of Forces agreement was signed with the Egyptian government, and on May 31, with the Syrian government.

So we've had three wars in the first 25 years of Isreal's history, all of which were started by Syria and Egypt, all of which were successful for Israel. There is a brief video of this history from an Israeli point of view here.

Back to the discussion

After I give the friend this history he agrees that some wars are indeed just, but still thinks that Israel shouldn't exist (nothing worse than a leftwing hawk) and that the Jews should have been settled elsewhere. Huh? Settled elsewhere? So I go into the history of the Jews and how they have been consistantly deported from every stable society they've ever lived in. I remind him of Spain in 1492, of Holland in the 1600's, of Russia during the pograms. Hmmmm, he says.

He asks why I think the Jews have been tossed out of every country they've ever lived in long term. I explain that because education is so important to Jews, and that education often leads to powerful jobs like lawyers, bankers, doctors, etc. that the Jews were often mistrusted because they were so successful. They were easy scapegoats because they were different, lived a separate life due to rules of Kashrut and Tsunios, and that they appeared to be unfriendly because they didn't mix genders. This was information that the friend didn't know, and it made sense to him.

But he still thought that Jews didn't belong in Israel and he asked me WHY the Jews were put there instead of elsewhere. I was incredulous. I mean, this is a kid that has a Jewish education and he didn't know the answer to this. What the hell are they teaching in our synagogues if this, so obvious an answer, was unknown to him. I pulled out one of our copies of the Pentetuach and showed him the maps of biblical Israel. I showed him that historically Israel has always been the homeland of the Jews. I showed him that our religious places were all in Israel. I explained to him that when Moshiach came back to earth, after the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, there would be no need for any other synagogues in the world. That the synagogues were there as a temporary replacement for the Temple in Jerusalem. Once the Temple is rebuilt, the Jews will have their sole religious home. It is all that we need.

I've been thinking about this conversation ever since. I was disturbed enough by the lack of knowledge this boy displayed to wonder if he wasn't alone. Do people actually not know why Israel is so important to the Jewish people? Do they not know that it was our homeland before Christianity and Islam ever existed? That is has ALWAYS been the homeland of the Jews.

Do people not know the history of the modern State of Israel and how it has been marked for destruction since the day the UN sanctioned it's existance? Do people think that the land was really stolen from the Arabs? That the British allowed this?

I also talked to him about the return of the Negev and Gaza and even parts of the West Bank. What other country has returned land that they fairly won in a war where THEY were attacked? Anyone? Bueller?

I know this is a hot button issue, but heck, I love a heated discussion. I'd like to know what you know about Israel and where you gained your information about it's formation, history, and current events. Please do comment. This is an important issue.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Observations at my local Target

Today I had errands to run, so my friend I came and picked me up and took me to various and sundry places that she had to go to. We hit CVS to drop off prescriptions for the Boy, then to Barnes and Noble for I to get some gift certificates, then to Bobs Store to get some clothing for the kids (more about that later) and finally to Target. By the time we got to Target I was too tired to shop! I know! It was an unmitigated disaster in the making, having to sit at the front of the store so close to all that Target goodness. Fortunately the two things I needed, kitty litter and some "long sleeved camis" for the Girl were both right by the cash register, so I got them and sat down to people watch. These are my observations.

  • If you're wearing jeans or cords, you also wear a short puffy jacket.
  • If you're wearing yoga pants you wear a fleece jacket, preferably a North Face Denali.
  • If you are pregnant, you shop alone.
  • Many people come as couples and split up, men with men, women with women. They don't bring kids.
  • Why would ANYONE wear 5 inch heels shopping at Target? One mom with a baby, a toddler, and three school aged kids was wearing red suede spike heels while shopping. Ouch!
  • If you're elderly, there is only one color of coat that is acceptable. That color is beige.
  • Men are less patient with toddlers than women. Quelle surprise!
  • Most people did not appear to be holiday shopping. In fact, most people seemed to be carrying out one or two small bags.
  • Teenage girls shop in packs, all like the same thing, and squeal a lot.
  • Teenage boys look like they are ready to kill their mothers and want to crawl in a hole.
  • White sneakers look horrible on most people.
  • People seem to spend a lot of money on end cap stuff.
  • Many families appear to be making a trip to Target into something FUN FUN FUN.
  • There are other people who can't walk the whole store without collapsing. I was joined briefly on my bench by two other women, both of whom looked unhealthy. Like cancer unhealthy.
  • Nobody buys baseball cards out of season.
That's about it. Nablopomo is kicking my butt today. I am just too tired to think.

Oh, and about the clothes. I got the Girl a pair of those fuzzy lined crocs. Yes I did! I love them and if they came in my size I'd have bought a pair for me, too. So there, croc haters.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Beyond mere survival, this is a tale of redemption

I have a longstanding friend who lives in the midwest and is married to a cowboy. No, it's not Rhee, but another really amazing woman who is living life amongst cattle, horses, dogs, and barncats. Not to mention her two biological daughters E and S, both of whom are quirky, delightful, and full of life.

My friend L is a social worker by trade, and has the heart of an angel. She is one of the kindest, most open people I've ever met, and this is the story of her newest daughter and granddaughter.

L was working for a large medical web site as a forum moderator and editor when she met a woman with an interesting story to tell. She asked L if she would please speak to her granddaughter, a teenage mother having a lot of trouble reconciling her past to her present.

L says "I met her originally through a co-worker at
drgreene.com. She knew A's grandmother and her
grandma and I chatted a few times. She knew I was a
social worker and she asked me if I would mind talking
to her granddaughter as she was worried about her. I
said I wouldn't mind talking to her but it would be
strictly as a friend, not as a "social worker". I
didn't really expect A would want to talk to me,
but it turns out she did. She was a new mom to K
and she was very stressed out due to her past and
on-going experiences.

She had a horrendously abusive childhood. Pretty much
any horrible thing you can imagine doing to a child
was done to her. She and her older sister and younger
brother were kept in the basement whenever they were
not at school and often went unfed and were punished
if they tried to sneak food. The youngest sister,
child of her mother and the boyfriend they lived with,
was left unattended upstairs while mother and
boyfriend went to work. H. was 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 years
old during this time. A would go upstairs and
check on H even though she knew she would be punished
for it if she was caught.

When A was 12, a teacher noticed bruises on her
and some of the story came out. It was enough that
Child Protective Services removed the four kids and
they spent a year living with their great aunt.

A's grandma fought her great aunt for custody and
the three older kids went to live with her when A
was 13. H. was...returned to her father. A brilliant
judge decided that a child-molesting drug-abuser was
great father material because he had a nice new
girlfriend and a sister in a town 90 miles away who
would help out with raising H. ::sigh::

A's life was briefly better after going to live
with her grandmother, but she was raped several times
while she lived there, plus on-going emotional abuse
from her mother and others. I think her grandma
tried, but she just didn't have the courage to really
protect the kids. Her brother went to in-patient care
and her older sister got pregnant at 15 and married at
16. Believe it or not, they are still happily

When I met A, she was severely depressed and
stressed and really didn't think she was worth
anything. There was a spark in her that I could see
at the time and I figured as long as she was willing
to keep talking to me, I'd talk to her.

When K was 1 year old, A was diagnosed with
incurable leukemia. They offered her the chance to
survive possibly 2 years if she had chemotherapy, and
maybe a year if she did not. She chose not to have
treatment feeling that if her time was short, she
wanted to spend it feeling as good as possible.

When K was a year and a half, she asked us to take
custody of her upon her death. We decided we didn't
want A to die alone and we asked her and K to
come live with us. One thing after another prevented
her from traveling and, as you have guessed, she
didn't die. For no medically explainable reason, her
blood counts returned to normal. : )

When she was physically able to travel, she and K
came to live with us. We had come to think of her as
our daughter throughout the course of her illness. We
talked every day on the phone and got to know each
other really well. We wanted to make it legal, so a
year ago July, we did.

Papa S and his four girls.

She is the neatest, sweetest person. She is working
on getting 100% physically healthy and emotionally
healthy as well, sorting through the events of her
life with a really great therapist.

Now, that's a story in and of itself. L and her husband S took in a young mother with incurable leukemia, plus her toddler daughter, and a very large amount of emotional baggage from years of child abuse, physical, emotional, and sexual. But the story is far from over.

A's mother is an alcoholic and drug abuser. She was also a victim of terrible abuse, as was her sister. That abuser was their father. He was arrested and put in prison, from which he escaped after serving only 6 months and disappeared for twenty-two years. He was just recently apprehended, and will be sent back to prison to serve out his term. When he was caught, I asked L if she had known about him all along, and she said
"Yes, it was one of the things she told me from the
start. They wondered if he was dead since no one had
heard from him throughout her entire lifetime.
Her biological grandfather, Lyndal Ritterbush,
was sentenced 22 years ago for abusing
A's mother Shonna and her Aunt Leah. He escaped
6 months after he began serving his sentence and had
not been heard from since. His actions led to
Shonna's descent into drugs and alcohol which in turn
led to A's horrific childhood.

He was *caught* a couple weeks ago! He stole his
brother-in-law's identity and has been using that ever
since. He was living in Oregon with a new (common
law) wife who knew nothing about his past.

He isn't sorry in the slightest for
anything he did to Shonna and Leah and thinks his
escape was funny.
This isn't a story about Lyndal Ritterbush. It's the story of his legacy, the legacy of child sexual abuse, and how if it is not confronted and treated, it can continue for generations. But even bigger than that, it's the story of redemption. For A, who grew up in horrific abuse, there is the chance to put that abuse aside and learn how to be a good parent. She has been saved by L and S, my wonderfully kind and good friends. They took this generational mess into their home, they worked with A to learn how to be a parent, how to work with a therapist to rid herself of her demons, and to learn to love herself.

My friends aren't rich. They live on a cowboy's salary. They don't own the ranch that S works, they don't own much at all. But they have hearts that stretch all the way to the moon and back. They are wonderful giving people, kind hearted and loving. They believe that people can put their past aside and become good working members of society. They gave A a chance to be the best person she can be, and then they went beyond that, inviting A and her daughter K to become a part of their family.

I've known L for about 15 years now. That seems almost impossible. We met on a Usenet newsgroup long before there were blogs or even the web. We were hardcore mommys that learned to use UNIX based newsreaders. L and I were fast friends. Her daughter E and the Girl are about the same age and they were absolutely the quirkiest two kids we had ever heard of. Whatever E did, the Girl did. And vice versa. Some of the funniest things I've ever heard came from Lynda's descriptions of her daughter. Years later my family visited hers in the mid-west on the ranch. My kids loved it. They got to ride S's cow pony and watch him inseminate some cows. They got to experience what rural life was all about, and they got to see that quiet and peaceful living was possible.

All the time I've known L and S, they've wanted another child to complete their family, but due to some circumstances well beyond everyone's control, that wasn't going to happen. So the joy that A and K have added to their lives has been immeasurable. It might not be easy, but it is good and right and we should all learn from this amazing act of kindness.

L, I love you madly. S, you'll always be the epitome of a REAL man to me. E and S, you're growing up to be such wonderful young ladies. I'm so proud of you. And A, you've found the best family and the best home ever.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

How a well planned day can become a nightmare

Today I had three separate things to do.

Visit the Girl and attend a meeting with her therapists
Go pick up prescriptions for the Boy
Hit the grocery store for last minute items

Sounds totally doable, right? It should have been a piece of cake. It ended up as a frigging nightmare. Let me elaborate.

First I had arranged a ride with the Girl's regular therapist to get to the fancy schmancy hospital where she is in residence. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and was totally not prepared for said therapist when she picked me up at 10:30. I ran to put on some clothing, noting that I was completely out of underwear, both top and bottom. OK, so I'm going commando. That's not that big of a deal.

We get to the meeting and the Girl, well let's just say that she was not in the most pleasant of demeanor's. A raving royal bitch would be more like it. She refused to cooperate with anyone. Every suggestions was put down. Every compromise rejected. Her way or the highway was the theme of the meeting. This did not go over well with the three therapists in attendance. Me, I was just so tired and feeling so battered that I basically withdrew. I've heard it all before. She's terribly stubborn. Nothing was resolved.

After being dropped off at home, I lay down on the sofa for a quick catnap to just recharge from all the coughing and yelling and negativity.

I had a 3:20 appointment to pick up the Boy's scripts all the way across town. I made reservations for the Ride the day before, following the stupid rules that make you have to stay one hour at any destination. I asked for a ride for the 3:20 appointment, with a pickup of 4:20. The Ride came at 2:15, deposited me at the Clinic where I waiting for an hour just to pick up the scripts. That took all of 5 minutes, and then I had to wait for the pickup at 4:20.

I read a couple of magazines, took a bit of a snooze, and at 4:20 started looking for the Ride. At 5:00 I called to ask what was going on and was told that there was a lot of traffic and the guy would be there in 5 minutes. At 5:30 I called again and was told the same thing. The driver pulled in front of the driveway at 6:05. He didn't even drive down the driveway to the front door, the moron.

I was steaming. There such a thing as being late, and there's such a thing as being so badly backed up due to bad planning and programming on the part of the Ride. They just cannot seem to understand that they're dealing with sick, frail people who just shouldn't be waiting for hours. Or they don't care. Whatever.

This driver drops me off at the market, I do my shopping, check out, and start waiting for the next driver to show up at 6:40. Time marches on. 6:40 comes and goes. This guy was only about 25 minutes late. But in order to find him I had to sit outside on the benches in front of the store. In the rain. It was not the most pleasant of times but at least he got all my bags on board the van and got me home before 8 pm.

So let's recap, shall we? Two easy errands from 3:20 to say, 4:30 were the plan. In actuality I was gone from 2:15 to 7:45.

People wonder why I'm so tired all the time. This is a perfect example of why. But at least I got everything done!

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Sometimes they actually comprehend the lessons

When my children were 2, I put them in a Jewish preschool/daycare. From the beginning of school they learned about Judaism, about Jewish holidays, and they learned a bit of Hebrew. Now, I speak some Hebrew, not as fluently as I did when I lived in Israel, but I can hold my own in a conversation that isn't about quantum physics or airline mechanics. Since I can't hold a conversation about either of those two topics in English either, I don't feel that I've got much of a deficit.

Once kindergarten was on the horizon, I choose to send the two kids to a Jewish day school. It was an obvious choice since our town only offers half-day kindergarten and I was a working mom. My kids were used to being at school all day, liked the social aspect of school, and did well with the challenges intellectually, at least most of the time.

After kindergarten we moved to the Bay Area, where there were a choice of three Jewish day schools in our area. The Orthodox one didn't have the best academic reputation, the Conservative one was a bit out of the way and during our initial interview, the woman representing the school did a terrible job of presenting the school. She was so negative that I went with door number three, the community day school in Shallow Alto. This was a bad choice. A very bad choice for our family.

We were one of three 'religious' families in the school. The rest were sending their kids there to avoid the huge asian population in the public schools. I'm not making this up, it's a known fact seen by the original charter of the school. In addition, the Principal was less than truthful in how he presented the school. Ok, he was a rabid liar. After we arrived and started school, the lies came to the surface but we were screwed. We started considering leaving the school by November, but chose to stick it out through the school year before moving to the Conservative school.

Throughout all this Jewish education, my children learned Hebrew. The Girl took to it like a duck to water, and she read Hebrew well before she read English. She also understood Hebrew very well, and even began speaking it with me when we were out and about, so we could converse privately. That was way cool.

The Boy was more academic in his approach to Hebrew, and he learned it well too, but he never had the love of the language that the Girl did. She was a natural, that one. They went to Jewish camps in the summer, and to synagogue throughout the year, and Hebrew was a living language in their lives.

But things happened, things I don't need to discuss, and I pulled the kids from the day school and homeschooled them for a while before putting them in public school. Even when they were in public school, we continued with Hebrew school at our synagogue so the kids were able to keep current on the language.

When we moved back to Boston, I tried to put them in Hebrew school at our former synagogue, but it was an unmitigated disaster. I mean, I could write a novel about the months they were in Hebrew school and how bad it was. For example, the Girl's Hebrew school teacher called me about a month into school and said that she was concerned that the Girl didn't know her aleph-bet. I almost choked. I asked her if she had ever tried to get the Girl to read in Hebrew, and she said she hadn't, but the Girl didn't pay attention in class so she ASSumed that she didn't know what was going on. When I informed her that the Girl had spent 4 years in a bilingual day school program and her Hebrew was excellent, the teacher didn't know what to say. Suffice it to say, they didn't last much longer in this program, which sucked donkey balls in a major way.

From that moment on, I was pretty disgusted with organized Judaism and didn't keep up with my kids Hebrew education. I've talked about this before, and it's not particularly germaine here, but my kids didn't ever receive the Jewish education they should have due to finances and a lack of sensitivity of the Jewish community. They never had their b'nai mitzvah. We stopped attending shul weekly and no longer belong to a synagogue. Although we still live Jewishly, I'm just disinterested in organized Judaism in this area. It's not for me or my family.

So the years passed by and my kids had less and less exposure to Hebrew. Tonight I was talking to the Girl on the phone and she was telling me that she was helping another girl with her Hebrew homework. A girl who isn't Jewish but it interested in converting and is attending Hebrew school at our old synagogue. To say I was surprised would be putting it mildly.

I asked the Girl if she remembered her Hebrew, and she was incredulous. "Of course I do" she said. And she started telling me what they had been working on, and how she was teaching the girl pronounciation and grammar. Oh, the nachas! I was filled with joy. I had given up hope that my children would know Hebrew well. This was such a great joy for me to hear.

I told her that when she went to Israel in a few years (Birthright will send them both) she would value that Hebrew, and she was all proud of herself and excited about how much she had remembered.

Sometimes, they DO learn, even when we think they're not. I'm so proud of her. I'm just bursting.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What did I say?

Today I spent the day in bed coughing and wheezing, a direct consequence of my enforced membership in the town smoking club at City Hall yesterday. It takes more than 24 hours for my lungs to calm down, and I'm still coughing up a storm.

This afternoon, when I finally made it downstairs, I checked my blog stats, and there was a marked increase in hits. When I checked where all these brand new readers came from, there was a link to Boston.com. But when I went over to see what Boston.com had linked to, I couldn't find it on their page. And believe me, I looked hard. So it is a complete mystery to me as to what people were coming over here in droves to read. Anyone know?

Anyhow, I got the most amazing email today from an old friend. It's a complicated story, and once I get her permission to post it, I'll tell you all about it. But in the meantime the hair on the back of my neck is raised up and I'm covered in goosebumps. This is one very creepy story with a decent but decidedly unhappy ending. Sorry to be so vague, but I need to know that it's OK to post the story.

Today was our last day with our family therapist. Next week we start with a new one from DMH. I really liked our family therapist, but today the Boy was so off the wall during our appointment I think she almost felt sorry to leave me with him. He was just jumping out of his skin and couldn't stop talking. It's so exausting being around him when he's like this.

The Girl is furious with me still and isn't speaking to me. We have a meeting tomorrow so she will have to talk to me. I did the right thing, I'm not feeling the least bit guilty for ratting her out and I accept that she's mad about it, but she's missing the point. She needs to take responsibility for her actions and instead of doing that, she blames her consequences on me. Meet me, the punching bag.

I just want to remark that I think Celene Dion makes horrible faces and creeps me out. I don't like her, I don't like her music, and those faces give me the creeps.

Margalit out!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Say What?

Today I had to go to city hall to get something done. It was a short trip, so I took a taxi. The taxi dropped me off at the handicapped entrance to our city hall because the main entrance is up a large flight of stairs. I went in, had my meeting, and then called the taxi service to pick me up. They told me there would be a 15 minute wait, so I went outside in front of the handicap entrance to sit on a bench in the sun.

Now doesn't that sound pleasant? It's warm and sunny and the trees are turning and all I wanted to do is get a bit of color on my face and sit quietly minding my own business. But no. That didn't happen.

Guess where the city hall smoking section is? Right in the handicap parking area. Because after all, who should be exposed to ten hardened women dragging deeply on their ciggies than the handicapped people? It's a perfect match, right?

When the first woman came out, lighting up the second she hit the fresh air, I asked her to please not smoke right in front of me. She gave me one of those "you frigging bitch" looks and moved to the side a bit. Then another and another and another woman came out, all lighting up the second their feet hit the stairs. Soon there were 10 of them in a cloud of smoke.

Me? I was choking and coughing so hard that I started to heave. Did them move? Why no, they did not. I couldn't move. I was waiting on a taxi and that was the only bench out there. But they could have gone elsewhere especially after they heard me choking and heaving.

I'm terribly susceptible to smoke. My heart just can't take the irritation. My asthma kicks in, I spend the entire day coughing and gasping for breath because my lungs are so irritated. I know that it's my problem and I shouldn't expect the rest of the world to aquiesce to my health issues. But geesh, second hand smoke is irritating when there is just one smoker. When there are 10, and there is a woman sitting in the handicap area waiting for a ride, get a frigging clue. Why do you THINK she's choking?

I hate cigarettes. Hate them with a passion. They do terrible things to my health and welfare. I understand that it's hard to give up an addiction. I'm cool with that. If you want to smoke, do it some place where it does not bother other people. But when someone asks you to move and the starts coughing and choking, move more. You're infringing on her air. Go away.

I just can't believe that city hall has designated this, of all places, to create a smoking area. There's a lovely space on the lawn in the back of the building that nobody goes near. How about that as a good spot? But not right in front of the handicap spaces. It's yet another thoughtless gesture that assumes that all handicaps are physically apparent. They are not.

Excuse me while I use my rescue inhaler for the 4th time in 3 hours. Frigging smokers.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Apple Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

I made this recipe up, so the measurements are iffy. Just keep tasting the stuffing to see if it's 'right' for your tastebuds before you bake it. We're a family that loves stuffing. I make a lot of it, because it's better left over when all the flavors have a chance to mingle with turkey, cranberry sauce and a tad bit of gravy on rye bread. The Moist Maker sandwich. Anyone know where that name comes from?

As for bread cubes, I've made my own, I've used Pepperidge Farm plain, I've used the flavored ones. The flavored ones are too salty for my taste, the plain ones work fine, but making your own is really magnificent. To make the bread cubes you'll need 2 or 3 boules, french bread. I choose the Iggy's Sourdough, and use one whole wheat and one white.

Cut up your bread into small cubes and place into large bowl.
Mix together some olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup), fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano that has been finely chopped. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes to lightly coat them. Spread them out onto cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted at 250 F. When they are crispy on the outside and dry on the inside, they're done.

Put the toasted bread cubes back into your very large bowl and set aside.

For the stuffing you'll need:

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup roughly chopped TOASTED pecans
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
chopped parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage
1 box Kosher chicken stock, low sodium (I use Tabechnick brand)
1/2 stick melted margerine (If you don't keep Kosher, use butter)

Combine all the DRY ingredients together. Mix well to ensure that everything is distributed well. Then pour on the melted margerine, and start adding the chicken stock slowly while mixing. You do not want to soak the breadcrumbs to the point of them acting like sponges, but you want enough liquid to keep the stuffing moist. It's a personal decision as to how squishy you like your stuffing. I like mine with a bit of crunch but mostly well moistened. I use almost the entire box of stock.

Add salt and pepper to taste. I don't add any salt, as the herbs are so fragrant that they replace the salt, but some people want a saltier taste, and that's fine.

Spread evenly in a shallow baking dish. I use one of those polish ceramic oval baking dishes, and the stuffing looks beautiful in it, but a glass pyrex dish will work just fine.

Bake for at least an hour, or until the stuffing has a crunchy top and is soft and squishy inside, lightly browned. It will smell amazing as it's baking. It's really fragrant. Serve while still warm, right out of the oven.

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Making an herbed turkey

I wish I could share pictures of this with you, but since I haven't yet made a turkey, I don't have any photos. Use your imagination. Or look at this photo I found on the web that really doesn't do my turkey justice.

Every year I make an herbed turkey. I start with a Kosher turkey that does not have to be brined. You really DO NOT want to brine a Kosher turkey. It's already salted and would be almost inedible due to the saltiness.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Herb Rub

12-14 lb Kosher turkey
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 TBS fresh rosemary. Set aside 5 or six whole rosemary leaves.
3 TBS fresh thyme
3 TBS fresh sage. Set aside another 4 or 5 whole sage leaves.
1/4 GOOD olive oil
1 lemon sliced in half
1 clove garlic crushed and chopped fine.
freshed cracked black pepper to taste

Combine the parsley, rosemary, thyme, pepper and sage in a morter and pestle or chop by hand until herbs are all finely chopped. Combine with the garlic and olive oil. Sqeeze about a TBS of lemon juice into the mixture. Mix together to make a nice greenish paste.

Very carefully rinse and pat the turkey dry. Now, with one hand, start slipping your hand under the skin, being very careful not to pull or tear the skin. You'll have to break the membrane that holds the skin to the meat, but it will break easily with your hand. You're trying to loosen up all the skin on the top of the turkey, and on the top of the drumsticks. This might take a bit of time the first time you do it, but even if you tear a bit of the skin, keep going. Your goal is to make a pocket between the skin and the meat.

Once you have separated the skin from the meat, with your hand take small scoops of the herb mix and rub it on the meat under the skin. Cover the entire top of the bird inside the pocket. You should not use all the mixture, set aside some for the top of the turkey.

Once the herb mixture has been applied on the inside of the turkey, take the whole leaves and make a flower under the skin. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it adds a lot to the wow factor.

With the remaining herb mixture, rub the top of the turkey all over, moistening the skin completely. This will allow the skin to crisp up and brown to perfection.

Once the top is done, make a bouquet garni with the remainder of the herbs. (Wrap the herbs in cheesecloth or wrap them into a bundle with some kitchen string.)

Turkey Interior

Bouquet garni
half a lemon
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery ribs
1 whole sweet onion
1 garlic clove, crushed

Take the half of lemon and sqeeze out the juice. Rub the juice all over the interior of the bird. Keep the lemon half. Then rub the interior with the crushed garlic. If you hate garlic, it's OK to leave it out. Wrap the carrots and celery in with the bouquet garni packet, and place inside the cavity. Put the sweet onion and lemon half in as well.

Stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, right above the drumstick.

Place a small piece of parchment paper over the turkey breast, and then a small piece of foil atop the paper. I don't think foil should touch food. If you're not as paranoid, then just tent the foil over the breast.

Cook for an hour, and then remove the foil and paper. Baste once at this juncture. You won't need to baste it again unless you want to. The turkey won't care as it has oil under it's skin to keep it very moist and juice. Cook until done, remove from oven, and then let rest for at least 20 minutes. Remove all the veggies inside the turkey and discard. The bird will keep cooking, and the juices will be sealed inside the turkey while it rests.

Then carve and eat.

Tomorrow, stuffing.

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Ho-Ho-Ho, it's Joe-Joes Time

Anyone that has been reading this blog for the past 4 years or any subset of that knows my feelings on Christmas. Overblown, overbearing, ridiculous waste of energy and money, blah blah blah. However, in the interest of true confession and holiday honesty, there are two things about Christmas that I love. Candy canes. Oh man, perfection in confection. There can never been too many candy canes as far as I'm concerned. I'm mortified to buy them because in Jewville, where I live, you tend to run into your neighbors and synagogue congregants in every freaking store. I feel like I'm crossing over the goyish line when I buy candy canes, but I don't care. I throw caution to the wind and buy them anyhow. I don't like the little teeny ones... they don't last long enough. I don't like the big giant straight thick ones either. I like the regular hooked candy canes in the 6" size. They are magnificent.

The other thing about Christmas that I love? Well, unless you're a totally lucky duck and live within easy driving distance of a Trader Joe's, you're totally out of luck. Because the greatest thing since candy canes are Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe'. Oh yeah, the greatest cookie ever made. Organic, no trans-fats and to die for. Of course it helps if you're a candy cane addict like me. So what are these Joe-Joe's that I speak of? They start with a delightfully crispy chocolate cookie. Then sandwiched in-between the chocolate cookies is a dreamy cream made of oreo-esque filling with bits of candy cane. They taste pepperminty and chocolate and they are creamy and crunchy and absolute perfection in a box.

But hurry! You can only get them for a few weeks this time of year. Because they are so popular with the Trader Joe's shoppers, they tend to sell out early. As does their peppermint bark, if you're so inclined to shell out the big bucks for something you can make so easily. For $2.99 a box, they're a little bit of heaven.

Note, I do not work for Trader Joe's, nor do I own stock in the company or represent them in any way except and a beloved and satisfied customer that loves the peppermint flavor in their cookies, bark, and oh...did I mention the cheesecake? Yeah. I bought one but the Boy ate the entire thing, and I never even got a chance to taste it. I hate that kid.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vocabulary game does good works

Have you discovered Free Rice yet? It's so addictive. You start playing and all of a sudden an hour has passed by and you MUST get to level 47 no matter how many hundreds of grains of rice you've already won. Or maybe you're not so competitive. Ahem.

I really like this game. While you're learning and relearning new words, you're also helping the UN to donate food to third world countries, grain by grain of rice. How bad can that be? Even for you folks that don't believe in helping others, this game helps you to boost your vocabulary and you barely even know that you're doing good, you misanthropes! See, big word there.

I am going to have the Boy play it in preparation for the SATs or ACTs. I know vocabulary is a thing of the past, but with his latin background he should do really well and boost his vocabulary, which is never a bad thing.

So you gotta play it and tell me how well you did. The highest level I got to was that difficult to maintain 47, although there are 50 levels. The FAQ says that few people go beyond level 48, which I see as a personal challenge. I'm so ridiculous about this kind of stuff. I'm a total and complete word nerd. Betcha can't beat me!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Parental involvement in video games is OK with me

Right now as I type this, my son and 2 friends are playing Halo2 on the PS2. The kids are all over 15, and they play mostly what I consider semi-violent games. Yes, there is shooting in this game, as in many others, but it's not particularly realistic, seeing as there are androids trying to save their planet. Its kind of like Star Wars games, where there is shooting, but it's not more drastic than any Star Wars movie. Halo 2 is rated Mature, which means 17+ should play this game. I'd certainly agree with this rating, but I know plenty of kids who cajole their parents into buying it at a much younger age.

I tend to follow the ESRB rating guidelines, which are clearly spelled out on their web site. The guidelines tell you what content in the games is objectionable, just like movie ratings do. Every family should be able to decide what they want in their home. For me, any realistic shooting game is out. This means that I would never allow Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt into my home.

ESRB ratings have two equal parts:

  • Rating Symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game, and appear on the front of virtually every game box available for retail sale or rental in the United States and Canada.
  • Content Descriptors, which appear on the back next to the rating symbol, indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.
Manhunt is the latest extremely violent game. It is rated M for Mature, meaning that it's for 17+, but they only got that designation after they edited out a few really objectionable scenes from the original game. Manhunt contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Use of Drugs in the game. It's certainly not a game I would want my child to play, nor one I would allow into our home.

Many parents don't understand that the ratings on the video game packages can be altered by the manufacturer to get that M rating. An A, Adults Only rating is video game death, similar to an X rating for films. No manufacturer wants that A rating, so they make the game objectionable, but work to keep out certain scenes that cross the line. Personally, I want to choose what is MY line in the sand, and I'll allow some 17+ games to be played, even though my son isn't yet 17.

If adults in your home also play video games, and have games that they do not want children to play, it is possible to put parental controls on your game box to lock your kids out. You can find the complete guide to setting parental controls for your particular gaming system here. I've become a master at parental controls because I use them as a way to ensure that my child bends to my will. No, really, I use them as a disciplinary method when certain Boys in my family (there is only one) tend to disregard the rules and regulations. Locking a child out of the computer, the TV, and the Xbox is a great way to ensure that your child isn't going to be sneaking around your back. Locked out means they can't use the machine, period. Heh.

I know that there are a lot of parents out there that despise video games and swear that they'll never have a game box in their home. Meet me, for example. I was dead set against getting our gaming machine. My son begged for a long long time and my constant answer was "I'll never spend MY money on one, but if you buy one, I won't refuse to allow you to play it." He bought his Xbox, and he's bought every single game he owns, and there are plenty of them. Most of them he gets used from the local Newbury Comics down the street. I won't spend a penny on the damn thing, but the enjoyment he gets out of it makes me question my stubbornness sometimes. By the time your kid is a teen, video games are a big part of their social milieu, especially if you have boys. Rather than taking a stand that makes your child different than his peers, I think it's a lot better to set rules about what is and isn't an acceptable game. This tends, at least in my home, to keep the stress factor to a minimum, and allows your child to play all sorts of games that you don't really hate. It works for us!

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Copyright, 2003-2011 by Animzmirot Design Group. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval without written permission from Margalit, the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. In other words, stealing is bad, and if you take what doesn't belong to you, it's YOUR karma.