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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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Belong to Me

I recently read Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos and I wanted to tell you about it because this is such a lovely book about friendship, redemption, and loss. It feels like real life when you're reading it, even though the situations might be a bit far-fetched. The prose is just gorgeous, filled with warm soothing moments as well as moments of distraught fury.

The story is that of an upscale suburban neighborhood, where Cornelia Brown and her gorgeous husband Teo have just relocated after living in the city. Cornelia was fearful of suburbia, and struggles to make new friends with the women of the neighborhood. Her resolve is sorely tempted when she meets her neighbor Piper, an uptight, perfectly dressed and coiffed mother of two clean, well-behaved children. Piper isn't a welcoming sort and makes immediate demands of Cornelia, telling her how to care for her garden and garbage. One of THOSE neighbors! Just as Cornelia despairs of ever making new friends, she meets Lake, a waitress at a local dive. Lake and Cornelia share a love of old movies and literature, and soon become fast friends. Lake is the single mother of a very gifted teenage son, Dev, and is also a newcomer to their community, where they settled for Dev to attend a school for the gifted.

It turns out that Piper isn't as horrid as she first appears, as she is actively caring for her best friend Elizabeth, who is dying of cancer. Piper is caring for her own household with a husband that does nothing to help her, as well as Elizabeth's household, her two children, and her husband who is unable to reach beyond the fact that his wife is dying. As Elizabeth gets sicker, Piper becomes more and more human, opening up her emotional baggage and reaching out to Cornelia as a new and valued friend. Meanwhile, Lake, who is harboring a huge secret from Cornelia, screws up her own relationship with her son due to her lies, and the walls all come tumbling down as the secret is revealed.

After Elizabeth dies, Piper's husband leaves her, saying that she wasn't emotionally there for him, and that he met someone else, who turns out to be the nurse at the kid's pediatricians office. Piper is glad to be rid of him, and is attracted to Elizabeth's husband. She ends up moving in with him, albeit platonically, in order to care for all four children, and finds herself happy for the first time in years. As Piper's happiness becomes apparent, Cornelia, who is pregnant at last, finds herself embroiled in Lake's terrible secret and is unsure of which way to turn. Trying to stay true to herself and her husband becomes every more difficult as the betrayal, loss, and love all become jumbled together to challenge her marriage in ways she never thought possible.

This book is bound to be one of my favorite reads. It has so much spirit, so much energy, and so much love in it that I was unable to put it down. This is what contemporary literature should be like, a book that keeps you in suspense from beginning to end as you try and navigate the emotional tidewaters of each character's life. It's that good!

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And people think it's just me

It's NOT just me. This comes all the way from Israel by way of the Bay Area. It just boggles my mind. Best line in the post: "This is the Bay Area we're talking about; the place where 'if it can't be solved with wheat germ and tofu, it's gotta be a Zionist plot'." So right on. So sadly correct. So very very pathetic.

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Calamity vs Calm

I'm not a calm person. No Buddha like presence here. I'm more like a volcano that erupts fairly frequently and then simmers back to my normal anxiety-ridden state. Strange, I'm much calmer in a struggle or an emergency than I am in every day living. I worry a lot. I have all sorts of anxiety type habits. When I get mad I get furious. When I'm done being mad, I'm often still seething quietly. That's who I am, and it hasn't been particularly harmful to me so far.

I have real issues with people who are namby-pamby. People who only want to see the pretty in life. People who see only good when there is so much evil. People who want everyone to love everyone else, even though it's apparent that this is an impossibility. We're not made to love everyone. Humans have always had conflicts in their lives. It's Darwin's survival of the fittest put into action. We need conflict in order to survive. Because there is only so much to go around, and unless people fight for their rights, for what should belong to them, they get nothing and they die.

I'm not advocating that we all go to war, or that we all act like Massholes and try to stick our noses into every argument. But I honestly do not want to hear one more person do this "love is all you need" crap. Love isn't all you need. You need money and recognition and respect and housing and food and all sorts of things that love is never going to provide you unless you're a high class hooker. Me, I'd rather have a bit of anger and resentment and be true to myself. I don't sell my soul for anyone or anything. I call a spade a spade, and I don't really tolerate much bullshit.

When I see talent, I sing out my praises. When I see corporate shilling, I sing out my disapproval. When I see cheating, I'm the first to call it. When I see placating for the purpose of self-advancement, I will say something. When I see someone just calling it in with no effort, I'll be honest in my disappointment.

I may not be the most likable person on the planet, but I don't really want to be, either. I don't want a bunch of phony friends. I don't want people to try and bask in my glory. I want them to bask in their own glory. I don't want people to tell me who is great and who I'm supposed to admire. I'll make those choices myself, thank you very much. I don't want to tell only the good things that happen to me, nor do I want to read that dreck on other people's blogs. I won't ever pretend to be impressed by someone who doesn't impress me in the slightest, no matter how much that person shills for their credibility. That kind of self-admiration makes me throw up a bit in my mouth. Don't tell me how impressed you are with yourself. I don't care. Don't tell me how impressed you are with the same old boring crap that everyone pretends to live. I don't care about that either.

I DO care a lot about your honest and real opinions. NOBODY, and I mean not even Mother Theresa herself, has only good impressions of everyone. That's just plain dishonest and makes you seem a fool. No, we can't all get along. We never have, we never will. People rub each other the wrong way. That's just a fact of life. Deal with it and move on.

I'm never going to like everyone you like. In fact, I'm probably going to despise some of the people you like. My feelings are just as valid to me as yours are to you. Trying to talk me into liking someone I find repulsive isn't ever going to work. Just like trying to talk Rebecca of Sunneybrook Farm into disliking someone I don't like won't work.

Accept that there are plenty of people like me out there. People who just do not handle bullshit well. People who are not ever going to like everyone. People who do find fault with the liars, cheaters, and corporate spokespersons. People that have a very strong code of honesty, integrity, and a bullshit meter that is set to very high at all times. We're out there, we're not going to be sunny and sweet, and we're certainly just as valid a personality type as anyone else. Heck, Andy Rooney has made millions being a curmudgeon. You want to tell him he's wrong and he should love everything and everyone in his life?

There's PLENTY of room for disapproval. Stop pretending it's so wrong. You do it in your own lives, you know you do. So faking your little sunny disposition and be a bit more real. Nothing wrong with real.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When did giftedness become a bad thing?

In the USA, being gifted isn't deemed acceptable. People don't like giftedness and they're none to subtle about it. Parents of gifted kids are continually accused to pushing their kids, of spoon feeding them facts, or of not letting their gifted kids be kids. And you know what? There ARE plenty of parents of very bright kids who do all of those things. Notice that I said very bright. I did so because you can't spoon feed a gifted child facts and figures. Their odd little minds don't work that way. You can't force them to be anything other than what they are, learning machines. Gifted kids don't necessarily learn more, but they do learn faster. Much much faster, which means that along with their giftedness comes impatience (everyone is so slow....) and their minds rush along so fast that they often think well before they speak, making them difficult at times to understand.

But the sad truth about the public perception of gifted kids is that they are not allowed to have friends, forced to memorize facts like spelling and geography to take part in the various national bees, and are pushed to attend college early. All of those things do happen. In fact they happen way to much for my taste. But those children aren't always gifted, they're just force fed fact after fact until they have memorized what they need in order to perform.

Sometimes, people just don't get it right at all. In the US, talk show hosts like to have force fed little kids 'perform' their 'talent' on stage. So we see the little girl that knows all the Presidents at a very young age. But what else does she know? This isn't giftedness. This is, at best, asynchronous learning, and more plausibly a type of savant learning. But we revere these kids because they seem smart and they're taught to be personable by parents who often live their own lives through their smart kids.

My friend Claire and I were talking about this today on the phone. Claire has 3 very gifted kids, including her eldest son who is frighteningly smart. He's also unmotivated, lazy, depressed, and not in the least bit sure what he wants to do with his life. Her middle child is the same age as my kids, and she's also extremely gifted, but she's also a very social kid with a bunch of friends, and a Facebook page that would certainly surprise her Mom if she read it. The youngest child, well, she's just the cutest thing you've ever laid eyes on, smart as a whip, but is too young yet to really know exactly what school has in mind for her.

Anyhow, yesterday the Girl was watching Millionaire and the contestant was a kid both Claire and I were very familiar with, Michael Kearney. He's known as the kid that graduated from college at 10 and had his Masters Degree by 14. Michael and his sister are infamous amongst the gifted listservs and so many parents want to beat his records. But you know what? He wasn't that great on Millionaire, and the Girl actually knew more of the hard answers than did he. So I was telling Claire that I wasn't impressed and she, who has met Michael and his family in person, said neither was she. Michael, it turns out, was a hothouse flower, one of those kids pushed by his parent to perform and perform. But at 23, he's just a regular old guy. Nothing special at all. Cute, personable, smart, but a hothouse flower nevertheless.

As the parent of a profoundly gifted child, I used to be accused of pushing my kids. Nothing, and I mean nothing can be further from the truth. I wanted my kids to get a decent education in school, as do we all, but beyond that we didn't join all those special Kuman classes or take violin lessons, or Russian math. We didn't need to, because my kid learned on his own. He just sucks in information from anywhere, and once it's in his brain, it's in there forever. He doesn't really need to be taught much. You show him how to do something and he's got it down. When I was homeschooling him, he did a full year's curriculum in math (Singapore math, the top curriculum in the world) in 6 weeks. Honestly, I couldn't hold him back. He did 3 years worth of English grammar, vocabulary, writing, and literature in about 3 months. Right now he's doing SAT prep. He sits down and just runs through the book. It's how his brain works. Believe me, I do not force him in any way to learn any more than he will tolerate. Remember, we're talking about the laziest kid in the world, here.

But even though the school system knows how bright he is (anyone that spends any amount of time with him is pretty clear that his brain works a bit differently than the rest of us), they STILL think I'm pushy. And they still think that I'm on him to get the best grades possible. OK, I do want him to have good grades, but he's already on high honor roll. How much higher can they get? I'm fine with his grades. He's working to his potential now, for a while, anyhow. He wants to get into a decent college, so he's making somewhat of an effort. My expectations, while very high, have been dashed so many times that whatever he does is fine with me. Ditto for his sister. I just want them to be happy.

It galls me, however, to know that there are people both in and out of education that can't accept giftedness, or confuse it with the pushy parent syndrome. We all know those parents who live for their children's exploits. Even when I was a kid our neighbor was nuts about his kids swimming triumphs. The poor kids didn't love being pushed, but dad wanted the next Mark Spitz. I know what pushy parenting looks like. I've seen it my whole life. Those kids, the ones that are pushed to be little performers.... they often don't make it. They just don't have it in them to be successful parrots as older kids and young adults. Nobody really cares about the 14 year old that can recite all the Presidents.

I don't get what parents need that they do this to their kids, but please believe me, parents of really gifted kids aren't pushing. Mostly we're trying to teach our kids how to apply the brakes. So confusing trained parrots and gifted kids seems unfair and unwarranted. If your child is very gifted, allowing them to lead their love of learning will be so much more valuable than feeding names and dates. Of course, this is just my opinion.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Doing myself in one step at a time

Have you ever had one of those days where you just need to hang it all up and go put yourself in a padded cell? Welcome to my world.

It started off with a large bite to the inside of my cheek, so large that I took a chunk of my cheek out and the blood was copious. Of course, since that side of my mouth is now swollen, I've bitten it about 5 times since, each time wincing in pain. That sucker hurts.

Then I was 'rubbing" my eyes and poked my cornea with my fingernail. On the opposite side of my face, so I've got a left cheek and a right eye coursing with pain.

To keep my lower body from feeling good, while I was looking for the pack of tissues to absorb the tears from my newly poked eye, I ran smack into the coffee table right on my sore knee. A nice sharp corner poked into the side of my patella and pushed it a bit to the right.

So now I'm a half-blind, limping, sore mouthed pathetic person. I do believe I need to be protected from myself.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saying goodbye to the X

I know Karen posted something about saying goodbye to the Xs in the past week or so, and as I told her, I'm so very very excited for her. There is something so rewarding about losing an X or 2 that just makes this whole diet and exercise thing worth the struggle.

It is a struggle, every single day. There are days when I'm just so sick of the whole thing I cave and eat what I want instead of what I need. I'd like to tell you that I feel badly afterwards, but I don't. It makes no difference at all because guilt and I, we're really not all about food. I've got plenty of guilt, but it has nothing to do with weight and exercise and cake. Never has, either.

I eat less than pretty much everyone I've ever met. I honestly am not a binge eater, nor do I cram in the calories. My metabolism has always sucked, mostly as a byproduct of a mean case of PCOS, and I'm about as sedentary as one can get before you turn into a sofa yourself. I hate to exercise. Probably because it's dangerous for me to do unsupervised, due to my wonky heart, and also because it feels like crap. It hurts me. My heart feels like it's about to leap out of my chest, my breathing is shallow and can't grab the oxygen fast enough, my muscles ache, and in general I just want to curl up on the floor and say "uncle". I never get that rush you're supposed to get with exercise, even though I do my 30 minutes of elliptical. I do it because I am supposed to, but I honestly hate it.

But through the hatred and dread of exercise, another X has fallen. I know it's unbelievable, but it's true. I've lost another X and with this loss, I have to acknowledge it because my pants are falling off. Literally falling off. Bermuda shorts I bought last summer to wear to our NE Mama's blog lunch are now so huge on me I can pee without unbuttoning them. I wore them a couple of days ago and sadly packed them up because they're so big they're uncomfortable. When I'm walking I can feel them sliding down my hips. I KNOW! It's just bizarre.

I panicked at first, wondering just what the hell I would wear since everything is just humongous on me, and then the Girl reminded me of a bag of clothing someone had given me a year or so ago, where most of the pants were capris 2 sizes too small. She even remembered where the bag was, which I felt was miraculous in and of itself. She pulled out a pair of bright red capris, never worn, straight from the Dollar Store marked $4.99, and handed them to me. They looked TINY and I said,"Oh, they'll never fit me, look how small they are!" But she made me try them on, and you guessed it. They fit just fine. I felt faint. I've gone down two sizes since last summer.

Maybe to you that doesn't seem like much, but to me? It's beyond unreal. Most of my weight loss has been below the waist and in my boobs. My waist never seems smaller to me, and my tummy remains like a tube of sponge around my middle. But the truth is, I don't see myself as I am in the mirror. I see myself as I was. Photos of me from a couple of summers ago don't even look like me, because I'm so much smaller. Seventy pounds smaller. I know how much I've lost, I see it on my scale every morning. But for some reason I couldn't let go of the sizes. The size I've worn for over 20 years will always be my size mentally, even if physically it is no longer even relevant.

I have to go shopping and buy some new clothes. That's obvious. Nothing fits me. I've been hiding in huge t-shirts for so long, but I don't have to do that anymore. I can almost see a day on the horizon where I can go into any store and just life something off the rack and it will fit. Now, you gotta understand that I'm not a small person. I have a huge frame and the smallest size I've ever worn as an adult is an 11/12. And that was without an ounce of fat on my body. I'm never going to wear anything smaller than a 12 because my frame just won't let me. But there is hope, people. Hope that at some point I'll get back down to a 12 or a 14, which would be so miraculous, so totally and completely miraculous. If it happens, you're all invited to my party, where we will eat cake and drink champagne and rejoice.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Oh, we're simpatico!

I've made a new friend recently. At my age, making new friends is hard work. Most of the women in my age group are in very different places than I am, with kids through college and retirement right around the corner. And if truth be told, I'm not really all that interested in women my age. I just don't relate in a lot of ways, mostly because most boomers are financially secure in a way that I'm never going to be again.

But my new friend... oh man are we simpatico. I met her at my mom's group and took her family on as clients. The second we crossed paths, I knew that we were going to be best buds. You know how you meet someone and you just KNOW that this is a person that's going to be a part of your life? Well, a couple of months later and we're hanging out and totally enjoying each other's company. But today I knew we were going for be BFFs. She invited me to go to her town dump. And I was so excited I almost cried.

My city's dump kinda sucks. We have a decent book exchange, but I never find anything I really want to read. We've got a paint exchange program, but again... not my taste for the most part. A lot of beige paint goes through the dump exchange. But our dump rarely has anything really good, least of all furniture and accessories.

However, my new friend, who lives in the next town over, has a dump sticker to her town dump, and I've heard tell for years that this is a great dump. When she took me around her house and showed me all the furniture and accessories she's picked up at her dump, I was hooked. Her town has some class, I'm telling you. Some of the stuff was pottery barn adorable, in great shape, and yes...free. One lamp I absolutely coveted. It was JUST my taste, black and white toile shade and the cutest little set of shabby chic drawers for the body. In a design showroom, that lamp would be $350, easy!

I know it sounds kinda gross, but in MA dumps are sort of a social event. Some towns have actual get-togethers at their town dumps, and if you're lucky enough to live in a town with a good dump, people actually covet your car stickers. It's weird, but hey...we choose to live in a climate that is inhospitable 80% of the time. We're a little weird, too.

My new friend and I will share lots together. We both love to garden, we both have special needs kids, we both like the same kinds of activities, movies, and music, and OMG, we both love us some cheap and free decor. What else is there to a powerful friendship?

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Funky funky and pissed

I'm furious. I mean it, I'm beyond pissed off. But I am NOT linking to anybody or any site because I don't want to give these people one more penny of Blogher's ill-gotten spoils. It's a corrupt organization and I'm not going to stop saying it because it's not mommy-blogger politically correct. Like anyone that knows me would EVER expect me to keep my mouth shut when I'm pissed. You know my motto? "Don't fuck with me." Too bad Blogher didn't learn that BEFORE they decided to pick apart my people.

What I've learned from yesterday's Blogher debacle is a pretty long list of things that have slapped me in the face:

The organization is led by a moron that thinks if she drops in that her grandfather changed his name it's OK to sanction anti-Jewish and anti-Israel posts. In fact, it's just fine because Blogher is such a warm caring community. Just ask her. And then ask the Jews how much of a fine warm community feeling they have about that organization.

The woman that wrote the initial offending post apologized profusely and I believe that she had no idea of what she was doing when she wrote that post. BUT, and this is a big but, she's a PAID blogher employee in the political segment, and the assumption is that if Blogher hires someone and pays them as an employee, then they are supposed to KNOW something about their topic. Furthermore, when quite a few different people asked Blogher just what the requirements were for a contributing editor's post, Blogher was characteristically silent. Again. Because that's what they do.

I'm beside myself that one particular commenter felt it was OK to blame the victims. Like it's the Jews fault that this kind of post was up in the first place, and that it was the Israeli's fault that such a suggestion of ethnic cleansing was OK and just groovy because the "poor" "Palestinians" are so badly abused. Oh my fucking God, what an asshole. Of course you can all guess where this jackass was from. The Bay Area, the place where it's politically correct to crush Jews and make Israel the bloodthirsty aggressor in the middle east. You know, the place where they think it's just fine to lie and lie and lie some more about the aggression of Israel against those poor people who have to live behind a big cement wall built why? Oh, because those poor misunderstood "Palestinians" feel the need to go into malls, restaurants, wedding chapels, schools and neighborhoods with bombs strapped to their bodies and blow up innocent people just for fun? And of course this asshole posted this garbage after a calm and rational post trying to inform the original poster about the history of Jews in Israel.

I'm proud and thrilled that so many of my Jewish blogging friends have ripped the Blogher ads off their sites. I wish more would do so. As the Blog Antagonist says "I've long thought that Blogher was masquerading as a beneficient organazation while exploiting bloggers for their own gain and sensationalizing current events and issues to suit their agenda." Now THIS woman is a brilliant, savvy blogger. If you don't read her, you're missing one of the best reads on the entire blogosphere. But she's absolutely on target here. I've read her varying opinions (all negative) on Blogher before, but this one just hit the nail right on the head. They ARE exploiting bloggers.

Why do you all think your blog revenues dropped? And why do you think they were silent on the subject until I posted something that confronted them head on? Um, yeah. Where do you think the profits are going? Just how rich is Lisa Stone that she could quit her job in order to run this two-bit organization? Just how much money do you think they're making off each and every one of you that goes to their 'conferences' (read drunken baccanalias)? Me thinks it's a LOT more than you think.

They're exploiting you. They're taking advantage of you. They're USING you to enrich their pockets and push forward their agenda. They have a bevvy of cheerleaders that, when things slow down, post the everpresent question "Why doesn't the world take us seriously?" Um, because blogher presents itself as a bunch of silly vapid women pretending to be 'serious journalists' in-between the moments they are blogging about drinking and giving head. WHY would anyone take someone like that seriously?

I'm proud that the Jewish blogosphere (and yes, there is a large, vibrant, and opinionated community of Jewish bloggers... a REAL community as opposed to a pseudo-community of money grubbing, swag grubbing women who do nothing but snipe at each other.) came forward and looked at that blogher dreck and didn't remain silent. Because the truth is, all the other posters, the ones that show such outrage when they aren't bowed down to (can you say Stefania Butler and Erin Kotecki Vest?)... of course they remained silent. It's OK, no it's just FINE to diss the Jews. Especially if you live in California, where Jew bashing is more than a hobby, it's a lifestyle. Where was the outrage on twitter? Not ONE freaking comment. Again, because Jew bashing is just fine, and the idea of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people isn't really a big deal, is it? I mean, they did it in Spain and Portugal, and in Holland and then in Eastern Europe.. and then they tried to kill them all, too. In living history. But it still goes on. Antisemitism is still alive, rampant, and evidentaly a large part of the Blogher community spirit.

They made their statement. They showed us uppity Jews what we're all about. Don't give them another cent. If you're outraged, whether you're Jewish, Christian, or Hindu, then TELL THEM. Tell them with your Blogher ads. Take them down. Tell them with your refusal to go to their little shindigs. Cancel your plans. LET them hurt the way they have hurt the Jews. Nobody deserves it more than Blogher right now.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Attention Jewish BlogHer members

Have you read this? I am so appalled, so ashamed that this IDIOT is being PAID to write for Blogher and was allowed to write this dreck, that I feel we need to take a stand. BlogHer, like most group blogs, tends to either ignore Jewish topics, or, when they feel they must write something, have a non-Jewish member write about the topic. I don't think they even employ a Jew, and I can tell you first hand that they post some of the more ignorant and misinformed crap about Judaism ever. A good example beyond this post? All of their Passover posts were written by a non-Jew who has become their expert on seders. You would think they would know better, but my opinion of Blogher is at all all time low as it is, even before this came out.

Note that my Blogher ads are removed and I have absolutely no interest in supporting this racist organization after what I read tonight. I would urge ALL other Jews who are involved with this organization to reconsider after this particular post. They certainly do not have our interests at heart, just as they do not have our monetary interests regarding their advertising network.

They're scum, people. I don't care how popular they are, and how squeee it is to talk about their stupid little yearly drunken bash. They're unprofessional (did you SEE their buttons they're hawking... proud of drinking and yet they don't understand why they can't get any respect outside the mommy blogging world), they're obviously racist and more than a tad bit antisemetic, and they're using YOU and YOUR BLOG for their own monetary gain. You're making nothing, but they're doing just fine. Hmmmm?

And one more thing. Can you imagine for one second if someone wrote a suggestion that all the Black people in the USA should be relocated someplace else? I mean, can you imagine? And yet look at the paltry amount of commenters even bothered to express their anger. And oh, were they angry.

Please, post on your own site about how outraged you are. Make them KNOW that this is unacceptable. Don't give them another cent of your money. They don't deserve it. They're racist and they proved it in spades today.

Addendum: The author of the questionable post thought it was such a great piece of writing that she cross posted it on her own blog. Let her know how you enjoyed reading it. Please! I hate to give her any more traffic, but good Lord, she really doesn't have a clue as to how offensive her posts are. She needs to know just as much as blogher needs to know how appalled you are that this kind of antisemetic posting was allowed on their site. And pass it on throughout the Jewish blogosphere. They need to know how highly Blogher thinks of the Jewish people. Right up there with cockroaches and ants.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

LOST Dicsussion Friday: The Shape of Things to Come


This month hiatus had me going over the previous episodes for this season with a fine tooth comb, looking for clues as to what might happen next. I have been scouring the Lost boards and web sites, reading various scenarios and I'm going to admit it here and now: I have no clue as to what will happen next! Waiting five weeks for a new episode of LOST kind of felt like being stuck in a time loop. Technically it wasn't that long of a wait, but after the cliffhanger ending of "Meet Kevin Johnson," it certainly seemed like a thousand days went by before tonight's episode. To recap, when we last left the castaways, Rousseau and Karl were shot by mystery men in the jungle, Locke was trying to plan his next move, and the Losties on the beach were still awaiting rescue. Tonight, a giant battle breaks out and we learn more about "The Shape of Things to Come."

The remainder of Lost's fourth season begins on the beach. We open with Jack who is popping some pills from the makeshift island pharmacy, claiming that he has some sort of bug.

Kate stops by to make conversation and chat about crackers which she recommends for stomach distress, but their nice moment is soon interrupted when a mysterious body washes up on the beach. Nobody recognizes the body until Daniel Faraday confirms that it's the doctor from the freighter, but nobody has any clue as to who slit the doctor's throat?

Sawyer and Hurley play a game of Risk (very fitting, I'd say) back at the barracks, while they're babysitting for Aaron. Meanwhile, in the Jungle a mystery man force Alex to turn off the island's fence. The guy is from the freighter and was one of the skeet shooters, Keamy. Alex turns off the fence due to the gun threatening her, even though she knows that the consequences for doing so are pretty damn scary! In other words, the freighter folks better not come crying to her when Smokey flies by and thrashes them.

Back in the barracks, Locke receives a phone call. The black phone actually starts ringing. The look on Locke's face is priceless as he picks up the receiver and answers the phone. It's a recording repeating "Code 14-J" over and over again. When Locke tells Ben about the phone call, Ben grabs a bunch of shotguns, obviously aware that 14-J is the code for big trouble. Ben says that the code means that the freighters are at the barracks already, and they have to prepare. He makes everyone block the doors and windows in preparation for the 'war'.

Next, Ben flash-forwards to the Sahara Desert, where he wakes up shaking, shocked, and nauseous. Apparently, teleporting isn't as easy as it looks, because he looks like he's been stomped by a camel. In the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nothing but sand dunes around him, a shot is fired into his arm, and then he's approached by two gun-wielding Arab soldiers on horseback, who he quickly dispatches with a kick-ass baton move. Removing the head scarf from one of the very dead soldiers, he wraps his wound and then mounts one of the horses, rides off, and Ben the action hero is born. He's just like Indiana Jones in this scene. Loved it!

We learn that Code 14-J is a signal that someone has been captured and forced to deactivate the fence. Ben tells Locke to stick by his side. The freighter folk won't risk hurting Ben, so staying near him is the best idea. Of course Locke is dubious. That man is so distrusting of everyone and everything that he's a danger to himself. The group, consisting of Hurley, Ben, Locke, and Aaron, barricade themselves in Ben's place.

Sawyer is outside looking for Claire when machine gun fire breaks out. Random red shirts are shot while Sawyer avoids ridiculous hails of bullets.

Before the "Directed by Jack Bender" title can come on the screen, Claire's house has exploded thanks to a rocket launcher. It's a big firestorm and we're sure Claire has not survived. But....

Now in Tunisia, Ben is booking a hotel room with one of his many aliases. This alias happens to be Dean Moriarty, which is a total Sherlock Holmes shout out. The female clerk is dubious and suspicious, but grants him a room key. Ben double checks what the day and year it is with the clerk (2005) before catching a glimpse of Sayid on the television behind the desk. The press is harassing Sayid about his recently deceased wife Nadia, but Sayid says that he just wants to be left alone to bury her. Interesting. More on this to come.

Back at the barracks, Ben claims that they need to find Jacob if they're ever going to evade the freighter folk. Locke can't find the cabin and knows that Ben can't either, but Ben claims that Hurley can, which I found particularly interesting since the last time they looked for Jacob, the cabin was not where Hurley thought it was. I am really curious as to how they explain how the cabin moves about the island at will. Meanwhile, Sawyer who is still outside Ben's house in the midst of gunfire finds Claire buried under some rubble and still very much alive, but not quite conscious. He takes her to Ben's place, where Miles also arrives a moment later. Miles has a walkie talkie and claims that his shipmates want to talk to Ben.

Back in the middle east, globetrotting Ben is now in Tikrit, Iraq, where both Saddam Hussain and Sayid are from. Interesting populace in Tikrit! Nadia's funeral is being held in Tikrit, and our action hero Ben goes up on a roof, pulls out a camera and a telephoto lense, and starts taking photos of a strange man bald man on the street. He also snaps one of Sayid carrying the casket, but the Sayid spots him, and as Ben is running away, Sayid tackles him. Ben claims that he's there to find the man that murdered Sayid's wife. When Sayid asks him how he got off the island, Ben says that he got off the island using Desmond's boat and the special heading, but we all know he teleported. I guess his ability to teleport is to remain a secret. Ben also tells Sayid that one of Widmore's men murdered Nadia. He doesn't know why it happened, but Sayid immediately believes him anyway.

Back at the island barracks, Miles says he thinks there may be about six of the freighter folk coming for Ben, and he also informs everyone that Alex is being held hostage. Ben picks up the walkie-talkie and contacts Keamy, the one freighter guy we've identified. The man tells him to surrender and that no one else will be harmed, but Ben knows better. He rattles off Keamy's entire back story including the fact that Keamy was a mercenary soldier, and we know we can't trust mercenaries, so Ben refuses to cooperate.

He almost changes his mind once Keany drags Alex out, pushes her down on her knees and put a gun to her head, but instead he tells them that they should get off the island. He also tries to say that she means nothing to him since she's not really his daughter. It doesn't work, and Keamy shoots Alex in the head. Whoa! Ben looks horribly shocked, but he's saved his life by ending Alex's. That man is heartless.

Ben can't believe that Alex is dead, and frankly, neither can I. I think Ben has officially lost his mind. He goes into his hidden room, sneaks into a secret passage we've never seen, and flash-forwards/teleports to Iraq. Ben tails Nadia's bald killer through the streets, and after it appears he's lost him, the bald killer catches up to Ben, wanting to know why Ben's following him. Ben says that he needs BaldKiller to take a message to Charles Widmore. Before Ben can relay the message, Sayid pumps the guy full of bullets. It appears that this is where we learn why Sayid teamed up with Ben as his hit man in the future. Sayid wants to bring war against the people who killed Nadia. Before doing that, he really should make sure Ben is actually telling the truth.

Back at the island barracks, Ben comes out of his secret passage looking filthy and a bit shopworn, and tells everyone that it's time to make a run for it. When he gives the go signal, they all need to run to the treeline and stay there. One, two, theee... and that's when Smokey decides to make a very pissed off appearance in the barracks. Old Smokey goes around killing the freighter folk, while the Losties are shocked that Ben has the ability to summon the monster to do his bidding. In one cool scene, a freighter guy tries to run from Smokey, and Smokey forms sort of a hook like hand and pulls the guy backwards and kills him. This is the biggest Smokey we've ever seen, long and fairly solid. While everyone is busy getting torn limb from limb by the Smokemeister, Ben says goodbye to Alex.

Back on the beach, Faraday is playing MacGyver and attempting to get a signal to the freighter. Since the phone is broken, he repairs it to send morse code signals to the freighter. He sends out a signal in morse code asking what happened to the doctor. The response comes back faintly, but he understands it. He claims that the response reads that the helicopter is on its way soon to rescue everyone, but Bernard knows better. Faraday is not pleased to learn that Bernard knows morse code and Bernard reports that the response actually said that the doctor is just fine and the freighters don't know what Faraday is talking about. Curious, eh? Jack demands to know if rescue was ever part of the plan, and just as Faraday admits it wasn't, Jack doubles over in pain. This is no time for a case of appendicitis!

Meanwhile, at the barracks, Locke is peeved that Ben lied to him about his knowledge of Smokey, but Ben claims he can chat with Jacob about it. Jacob will explain all, and we know that Locke can actually hear Jacob, unlike Ben. Those two have to stick together in order to get anything done, it seems. Sawyer, tired of the nutcases around him, decides to take everyone back to the beach. He wants Hurley to tag along, but Locke won't allow it. Locke and Sawyer have an excellent faceoff, with both holding guns in each other's faces. But good old Hurley reluctantly agrees to go with Locke to stop the guys from killing each other. Off Sawyer, Claire and Aaron go into the jungle at night to start the long trek back to the beach and Jack's team.

Globetrotting Ben is now in London and looking strangely suave while wielding his baton. Entering a very hoity-toity building, he convinces the consierge that he's visiting Mr and Mrs Somebody or Other, and the consierge looks dubious about the hour, but allows Ben to head up into the elevator. Instead of going to the 4th floor to visit Mr and Mrs Somebody, Ben pulls out a key and inserts it into the Penthouse stop, thus heading straight to the penthouse suite of a gorgeous apartment house. It appears that this is Charles Widmore's lovely little flat.

Ben sneaks in and confronts Charles in his bedroom, where he's fast asleep. Awakened, Charles wonders if Ben has come to kill him, but Ben claims that he can't do that. He reminds charles about the 'rules', whatever that means. He's there to confront Widmore about the murder of Alex, but old Charles doesn't want to hear it. To get revenge, Ben says that he's going to kill Widmore's daughter, meaning that Penny is now in grave danger. Widmore wishes Ben good luck finding her, but we know Ben will find her with his wide network of spooky whomevers all over the world. Then Widmore claims that the island is his and he intends to get it back, but Ben says that he has no chance of finding it. That's when the episode comes to an end, with the logjam of both having something the other wants, but both are hidden and difficult to attain.

This hour was so jam packed that I need to give my brain time to rest. I'd say that was worth waiting five weeks for. But some burning questions are raised.

Just what is Ben hiding that is worth more than his daugher's life?

Is the Island's magical or monetary promise what makes it so desirable to Widmore and Ben?

How does Hurley end up as one of the Oceanic 6 if he remains with Locke?

Are there going to be people left on the island alive once the Oceanic 6 leave?

Is Jack going to turn sicker next week? Do you think he needs his appendix out? And if so, will Juliet do the surgery?

Did Smokey kill all of the freighter folks, and if so, who is going to fly the helicopter back to the freighter? Is the pilot still alive?

Do the remaining freighter folks end up aligning with the the Losties?

WHERE ARE THE OTHERS? And why aren't they coming to Ben's rescue.

Why can Hurley find Jacob's cabin when Locke and Ben can't? What's up with that?

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This morning I had an early meeting with my mom's group that was, as usual, wonderful and supportive. I promised the Girl that we would do something fun after I got home, but I wouldn't tell her what. I actually wasn't too sure what I'd be up for, but I decided to take her to IKEA. She's never been, she loves their stuff, and it would be good exercise walking around that store. And I mean around and around and around. Good Lord, that place is a huge maze.

When we finally got near enough to the store for her to see the giant blue and yellow sign, she got all excited. She's a huge fan of the catalog, she's got several pieces of IKEA furniture in her room, and she loves bright colors and room decoration. There couldn't be a better mid-week field trip for her.

We did the showroom floor first, and got to the bedrooms where I asked a sales rep about the broken drawer in her dresser. She told us that we could go to the AS IS counter at the very end of the Marketplace by the checkout stands and if they could, they would help us. We continued to wander the store, trying out various and sundry chairs and sofas and poking through bins of stuff. Then we went downstairs to the Marketplace and checked out a bunch of stuff including the cutest dishes and silverware. Inexpensive, but we don't really NEED new dishes, so I wistfully bade them a fond farewell. Sigh.

In the curtain department the Girl was totally awed by a couple of choices, and I think we'll go back for them over the summer, once she paints her room. That's the very last thing she wants to do, and then her room will be 'finished' until she gets a bee in her bonnet to make some more changes. As we were walking through the Children's Department, she absolutely fell in love with the furniture that looks like a Mickey Mouse bedroom. She was gobsmacked and would have just picked up the pieces and walked right out of the store if I had let her. That child was in lurve.

After negotiating every curve, we finally found the As Is office and stopped in. The guy working there was very helpful and gave us some new bottom panels that he said might work. If they didn't, we would have to return the dresser, which is OK, I actually don't mind doing that, but I don't think it will fit in the car.

We got lost on the way home because I was paying more attention to the Girl crushing on the catalog than the road signs, which were typically confusing anyhow. So we ended up coming home through Boston and driving by the river. All the cherry blossoms are in bloom, along with the azaleas and forsythia. It's just gorgeous. The river was like a waterway of diamonds, sparkling and winking in the bright sun. People were already sailing and sunning on the shores, and it looked like the most perfect day outside.

Getting lost is often frustrating, but this time it was pure joy. We talked about all the things we saw on the road, and it was relaxing and incredibly beautiful. But eventually we reached home and the Girl went up to try her new dresser bottoms.

They don't fit.

Oh well, it was a lovely field trip and we both had a lot of fun, even though we couldn't eat anything due to Passover. Bummer.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I've been reading

I'm not just laying in my bed gasping for breath and sobbing about those damn trees and their pollen, I'm reading up a storm. While I've always been a voracious reader, time has always been a bit of the enemy as far as reading as much as I want to. But with allergy season, I'm literally (ha, literally....funny!) unable to do much of anything. I have to stay indoors or my head explodes. So there's a choice between daytime TV and reading. Right now, the books are winning, hands down.

Oh, it feels so good to read again. When I have a lapse in my reading, I forget how much I enjoy it, how much it engages my mind, how much I learn from books, and just how relaxing it is to pick up a book, plop my butt down in a comfy chair, and recede from the world around me. Last night was a good example. The Boy had friends over and they were rocking out to guitar hero and I was engrossed in a book. They were making a lot of noise and occasionally talking to me, but although I was physically right there, mentally I was in Barcelona, following the adventures of the guy that cracked the code to buying Birkin bags right from Hermes stores.

Let me share with you what I've been reading. In the past week, I've finished 5 novels and one non-fiction memoir. I know, it's a bit excessive, but this is how I used to read, pre-kids.

Bringing Home the Birkin, by Michael Tontello. This quick read is a fascinating first person account of how a young gay man from Provincetown, MA moved from his seaside home and thriving business to Barcelona, Spain and found himself emeshed in the very strange world of buying and selling Hermes merchandise on Ebay. What began as a serendipitous act, selling a couple of Hermes scarves, ended up as a 1.6 million dollar business before he lost interest after the death of his mother. Tontello found several Hermes mentors on Ebay that advised him on how to find rare scarves and price them accordingly, and mentioned that he might want to try and find them a Birkin. Tontello didn't even know what a Birkin was, but with each visit to Hermes stores throughout Europe he kept asking if they had them, and was rejected time and time again, until he figured out the formula on how to get Hermes salespersons to show him the Birkins hidden in the back rooms, only pulled out for 'special' customers. Once he solved the dilemma of how to get Birkins, he was buying as many as 6 in a week, and immediately turning them around to his customer base. While Hermes claims that they only make 100 Birkins per year, Tontello was buying many more than that, and making a large fortune in the process. This is a great read, hilariously funny in parts, and highly enjoyable. Read it!

The History of Lucy's Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters, by Deborah Wright. Meh. I'm not a lover of chick lit, but it's my version of trashy novels. Some people like mysteries, some people like romance, I'll read a quick chick lit book for fun. Usually they are fun. This one wasn't. It was stupid. Lucy is a commitment-phobe and sort of a dim bulb. She loses her job as assistant to a 'scientist' and the 'scientist' gives Lucy a time-machine that Lucy put together and used to travel in time to meet some of the world's greatest lovers. She meets Lord Byron, Casanova, Ovid, Al Capone.... yawn. I only finished it because all the other books were downstairs. Definite skip.

Mommy Tracked, by Whitney Gaskell. More chick lit, although light years better than the previous book. Four different women in the same town, lives intertwined, marriage and relationship problems... the usual. Not offensive, not literary prize winning. Exactly what chick lit is supposed to be, light, entertaining, and fun.

Codex 632: The Secret Identity of Christopher Colombus, by Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos. I'm not sure exactly what this genre is called. It's historial fiction with a dash of intrigue and a lot of code solving. Started by Umberto Echo in The Name of the Rose, this genre was taken to the heights of popularity with Dan Brown's The DiVinci Code. Now, I'll admit to being a sucker for whatever this genre is called. I happen to love history (I know, I'm a freak of nature) and I like code solving and all that mysterious spooky stuff. I find it highly entertaining, and this book certainly didn't disappoint at all. I loved it. It didn't have all the extranious violence and police chasing of the Dan Brown books, which is a big plus for me, and it focussed solely on existing historical documents, some of which I've already read, to prove the "real" identity of Christopher Colombus. Of course, nobody has actually proven exactly who Colombus was, but many have proven who he was not. He was not Italian, he was not from Genoa, he was not a poor silk weaver, and he certainly was not a dupe of the Spanish government. This novel takes research on Colombus's identity to such far-flung places as Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, New York and Jerusalem. It's a consistantly interesting read with no lag and no disappointments. A definite two thumbs up.

The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris. Did you read Chocolat? Or see the movie? With Johnny Depp? No? You missed Johnny Depp in his sexiest role ever? You fool! The Girl with No Shadow is the sequel to Chocolat, and it does not disappoint. More magic, more chocolate, more intrigue, more quirky characters... how can you go wrong? Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk have left the small village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes to the much more crowded and busy village of Montmarte in Paris, where they change their names and live a very private and quiet live. But all that changes when a woman named Zozie arrives in their lives and turns it upside down. Zozie and Vianne open up a chocolaterie on a Montmarte corner, and just like Lansquenet, the chocolaterie becomes the center of village society. But Zozie isn't what she seems. She another witch, and she teaches Anouk to use the powers that Vianne has forbiden to be used, all in her desperate quest to abduct Anouk and put her to work practicing identity theft. Zozie is an expert at identity theft, and she works quietly to steal Vianne's identity as well as her daughter. But Roux (the Johnny Depp part) comes to Paris after 4 years away and finds that Vianne's baby Rosette, a child with special needs, is his daughter. He figures out that Zozie is up to no good, and help's Vianne rid her life of this very dangerous woman. LOVED IT. Cannot wait to see it in a movie form. Just wonderful. Slow and filled with beautiful prose, this is a masterpiece of gorgeous, rich prose with a surprise around every corner. Do not miss this book!

Another Thing to Fall, by Laura Lippman. Let me just begin this review by saying that the photo of the author on the back shows she is a dead ringer for Tia Leone. Pretty and a good writer. Hate her! No, not really. This book is one of a series following Tess Monaghan, Baltimore private investigator. While rowing, Tess literally runs into the crew of a new TV series filming in Baltimore called Mann of Steel. Expecting the crew to be angry for ruining their shoot, she's surprised to find that they want to hire her to investigate some disturbing incidents that keep happening; fires, bad press, union threats. Tess is asked to watch starlet Selene Waites and serve as her bodyguard and babysitter, a job that sounds easy but ends up being more than full time and filled with 'accidents' and 'adventures'. Selene isn't what she seems at all, and Tess has to hire her friend Whitney to tag team the bodyguard duty. Meanwhile, the aging actor Johnny Tampa and the two partners responsible for the show, Ben and Flip, also behave questionably, forcing Tess to look further into the entire crew to solve the mystery. Another meh. It was ok, written well, but this is so not my kinda book. I like mysteries, but not this kind of mystery. I'm more interested in the psychological thriller, Ruth Rendell, PD James type of book. This book is fine, but just not the kind of book I like to read. If you like this genre, you'll like the book.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Damn Trees are Killing Me

I cannot breathe. My lungs are filled with allergy-related mucus and my nose has at snot that must be in inch thick. My sinuses... they do not work. Nor can I hear, because my ears are blocked. Seeing is also difficult because my eyes are so itchy and red.

Ah, spring! That time of year we all look so forward to. Mostly because we're morons who forget how miserable we are from the pollen. Nobody feels good right now. Yesterday I never even got out of bed, I was so nauseated from all the snot. My body is not made to react well to pollen. No matter how many allergy meds I take, and I take them all, nothing works.

Ok, enough with the bitching about spring. It's awfully pretty outside. Too bad I can't enjoy it unless I'm in a hermetically sealed environment. That PopeMobile is looking pretty darn good right now. I wonder if I could borrow it.

The Girl is driving me nuts. The Boy is doing really well right now. They switch off just to keep me on my toes. I'm curious as to how this summer is going to go, because I'm on a full scale war to keep the stoners out of my house. So far, I'm doing OK, but it's tough going when your kid has made a choice to befriend every stoner in town. She's such a chip off the old block. But I KNOW what it's going to do to her chances of getting into a decent college, and how it's going to affect her later life. She needs to separate from this now and learn to choose more wisely. Like that's going to happen!

I've been very busy reading my gigantic backlog of books, and will be writing up several reviews once my brain starts to work again. Until then, don't have any high expectations of anything intelligent coming from this blog, because I promise you, I'm barely functioning.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

mom is pooped

This is the boy filling in for his very tired and sickly mother, due to the whole "tired and sickly" thing.......

she wanted me to post on here to let people know about her present state, so that's what I'm doing.

she also wanted everyone to know how amazing I am

And she also mentioned that I'm the best son in the world

And that my intelligence far surpasses her own feeble excuse for a brain

And that I'm just way cooler than her

And that she's a dumb-dumb-head, whereas I am incredibly cool...... I mean really, how can she hope to achieve greatness equivalent to mine when I'm so stunningly handsome and so intimidatingly brilliant HA HA HA (me laughing at her)

And that she wishes those whom observe passover a very happy holiday (but she mainly put the emphasis on the stuff about me)
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Sunday, April 20, 2008

What happened to compassionate Democrats?

I'm so disappointed in the two democratic candidates running for president. I'm sick to death of the snarky comments, the stupid attacks, and the lack of focus on issues. Real freaking issues that affect real freaking people. I'm tired of the candidates telling me they're 'just like us' while they're living in million dollar homes and never struggling to pay for food that keeps increasing in prices. When was the last time Hilary Clinton went to the Stop and Shop and filled up a cart with her weekly groceries? Um, yeah. Just like us.

But what I'm really ticked off about is health care. Both candidates pussy-foot around Universal Healthcare but neither of them are looking at how it is done successfully in other countries. I haven't heard one comparison to Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan, or Japan. The comparisons I do hear are to England and Canada, both systems based on a more socialist way of handling the health care for all their people. Not that I have a problem with socialism, because I don't. But I want candidates that I'm supposed to seriously support to at least KNOW why health care in Japan and Taiwan is so markedly cheaper than it is in the USA. Could it be because it's ILLEGAL for health insurance companies to be profitable? Yes, they have to be non-profit. Could it be because the government sets the rates for every single procedure in healthcare every year. So that healthcare is equitable for everyone, and it's cheap. Really cheap. Could it be because the drug companies aren't allowed to mark up their prices and are regulated by the government price setting mechanism? And that because the government buys the drugs in bulk, the prices are 1/4 of what they are in the USA. Hmmm, that might be a good idea.

But do you hear Obak Barama and Hillary Clinton talking about these thing? Nope, you don't. Because they're petrified of big business. They don't want to upset the apple cart. Health care in the USA will never change unless we look at what works internationally and emulate those programs that are successful. They need to look at the satisfaction rates kept by the various goverments and learn what works and what does not. They need to update their information of the waiting times for seeing doctors and receiving services in England, the country they are so fond of talking about. Because their information is outdated and plain old wrong.

I'm equally worried about the rise in food prices in the USA and internationally. Did you know that people are rioting around the world because they can no longer afford ANY food. Did you know that the people of Haiti just overthew their government after being forced to eat dirt and roots from the lack of food. And that the people of Mexico took to the streets because flour and corn prices have gone so sky high that they can't afford to make tortillas, a staple of their diet?

Much of the rise in food prices can be blamed on the price of oil, because so much of the food in the US is shipped in from around the world. Buying locally, growing your own 'victory garden' and ensuring that you purchase in bulk the foodstuffs that you use often are all ways to help keep your food prices down. But the best thing we can do is to recognize that global warming is causing droughts and very weird weather worldwide, thus afffecting the worldwide crops. In addition, we have to recognize that ethanol is NOT a viable way to change our reliance on gasoline in the US. Ethanol is made with corn, corn that is taken out of the food resources of the US. The more corn is refine for ethanol, the less corn we have to feed our cattle, and to use as an additive to our own food products. Now, I'm no fan of corn syrup, but we use it in a LOT of food products (Check that can of soda you're drinking) and it's continually rising costs affect the overall cost of food nationawide. Ditto for wheat. The more corn we grow, the more fields that could be growing other, more essential grains, are being used nor for wheat, but for corn. Hence the lack of flour in stores, and the extreme rise in prices. Ditto for eggs. What do factory farms feed chickens? Why, corn! Ouch.

But do we hear our democratic candidates address the rising cost of food and the way families have been forced to cut back on purchasing essential food in order to pay for their utilities? Do we hear the candidates address how factory farming is robbing the American people of essential foodstuffs? Do we hear candidates address that charitable giving is on the downturn as more and more people can not afford to help out the less fortunate, just as the government is cutting their own safety net programs locally and nationally? No, we don't.

We hear stupid comments, our media refuses to ask tough questions, and I'm totally sick of the whole thing.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

It has come to this

My level of exhaustion is so bad I let the Girl make the matzoh balls. I did. I know she is the world's most uncooperative cook, and she can't stand to touch food, but honestly, I'm just too wiped to cook any more.

The turkey is done, the stuffing is in the oven, and once the MBs boil, we'll be done. Lord only knows how we're going to get all this food over to the Seder location, but we'll figure it out. Later. Because now...nap.

I'm so tired of Pesach and it hasn't even started yet. There is just no way I'm going to make it through a long seder without a cup of coffee. A really BIG cup of coffee. Like in a bucket.

I swear that after tomorrow posts here will more exciting. Unfortunately, at this point I'm basically brain dead. You would not even believe how many typos I've made just trying to get this missive up. OMG, it's pathetic.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Chag Semeach

Have a happy and sweet Passover
to those that are celebrating!

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The Jewish Suburban Woman Cooks Tsimmes

Tsimmes is a very old and traditional food, made with sweet potatoes, dried fruits, carrots, and onions. It can be meatless, or can be made with a brisket. I use a modified version of Joan Nathan's Sukkot Tsimmes to make my tsimmes my own. So let's get started, shall we?

The Cast of Characters:

A beautiful and rather enormous brisket, sweet potatoes, prunes, apricots, a large sweet onion, chicken fat (oh come on, it's a holiday...schmaltz once a year won't kill you!), a bag of carrots, honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, and an orange.

Doesn't sound all that appetizing so far, but you just wait. It's gonna look better and better as we layer on the goodness.

First I unwrap the brisket and unfold it. Yes, that sucker is folded in half. It's one hell of a slab of beef. Once it's unfolded I rinse it off carefully and set it down on a cutting board. I take a nice big spoonful of the schmaltz, put it in the bottom of the baking pan, and melt it on the stovetop.

Once the chicken fat is melted, I season the meat with salt and pepper, and lightly brown it on both sides in the schmaltz. Careful, schmaltz smokes... a lot. Do this with your doors open to let out the smoke or the firemen will come and want to stay over and eat. Firemen eat a lot.

Ok, we've seasoned the beef, and now we're going to slice up the gigantic onion into nice big chunks. You don't want to lose them in the middle of the tsimmes, so I cut the onion into quarters and slice each quarter. Layer the onion slices on top of the slab of beef.

Next, it's time to slice up the carrots and sweet potatoes. No fancy schmancy cutting here, just slice those suckers up and add them to the pan. You want to keep the sweet potatoes rather thin so they will cook through in the oven.

Oh, you better preheat your oven just about now. I cook my tsimmes at 350, but Joan says 375. I like a slower cooking brisket myself.

The next step is to add the dried fruit. Now, my mom made tsimmes with a bunch of different dried fruits and even added golden raisins (which are SO much better than brown raisins), but I'm more of a purist. I like dried fruit. I like it a lot. But anyone that spends a week eating matzoh in it's various forms knows that dried fruit is more than a nice snack, it's the one thing keeping you out of the hospital ER for a bowel obstruction. So in my house, we use apricots and prunes in the tsimmes and then eat the other kinds of dried fruit all week long. Aren't you glad I shared this little tidbit?

Prunes first, then the apricots.

Now it's time for some seasonings. I peel off the zest of one orange, chop it up and add it to the pan. Then I squeeze the orange juice into the pan as well.

You can barely see it in this picture, but I also add honey to the mix, and 1/4 cup in total. But I don't measure. I just squeeze the honey until it looks like enough.

Spices? Yup, cinnamon and nutmeg both get shaken over the top of the pan.

Then I add enough water (but you could use beef stock too) over the top to cover the meat, about 3/4 of the way to the top of the pan. I pour about 2 cups, maybe up to 3 cups total.

Ok, it's pretty much made, and now we have to cook this baby slow and long. First I get out the gigantic length of extra strength foil, and wrap the entire pan top to bottom. I know it's going to leak all over my stove. It aways does.

And this, my little pixies, it what it looks like when you've cooked it, and then opened the foil to let the steam escape.

I think I should have turned that photo around, eh?

Now it has to cool off for a while, and then I'll skim the fat off the top, and it will be all delicious and moist and savory and sweet all at the same time.

See, just like Bubbe used to make!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Counting Food

One of the big items that my kids fight over all the time is food. The Girl counts it, the Boy eats it. You would think that by now they would have learned that she counts, he eats, but nope. It's a constant battle. She knows every single item of food in the house, where it is, how big it is, how much is left, etc. He doesn't care to whom the food belongs, if he's been told not to eat it, or if it's for a special occasion, he eats it anyways. It's of no consequence to him. None. If it is edible, he's gonna go for it.

Now this would seem to be quite the issue, but I just won't get involved anymore. Unless he eats something that I've specifically earmarked as mine or an item for dinner, special occasions etc., I figure that the one that gets there first is the one who is going to eat whatever it is, and the other person is going to lose out.

I've explained my position oh, 7 million times, but every day at least one fight breaks out when she's counted something and proclaims it missing and he denies that he's eaten whatever it is. In some cases he's lying, and he'll admit it to me, but not to her, and in other cases he hasn't touched said item, but she's so SURE that he's eaten it she will not back down.

You would think that this has to do with sweets and treats. You would be wrong. She counts fruit, for heaven's sake. She makes notice of every single thing in the house. It's like a hoarding thing or something. I know she's just protecting her rights to food, but the weird thing is, she barely eats anything. She doesn't even LIKE most food. She just counts it. And he eats it.

He'll eat anything. Last night I made chopped liver for Passover. I didn't have a chance to run it thru the food processor so I just left it in chunks in the fridge. When he got home from school he ate it. He didn't even know what it was, and he said it was disgusting, but he ate it anyways. He's a human garbage disposal.

I don't know how to make them resolve this problem, so I'm just trying hard to stay out of it. But what do you do when one kid is Midas of the Kitchen, and the other kid is a Kitchen Aide?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pope's visit to the US

I'm not a Catholic (NO!) nor do I play on on TV. In fact, I'm fairly ignorant about the Catholic Church, especially for one that has lived most of my adult life in an extremely Catholic state. I'm of the opinion that Catholicism really has no affect on my life, other than the totally awesome Festas held every summer in the North End. But, as some of you might know, I live in the city that has the very dubious honor of the first Catholic church to unveil the priest sexual abuse scandal. Yes, it all started right here in our fair city. The Church no longer exists, as it was torn down a while back, and frankly, good riddance to that edifice.

Although the Church is no longer standing, the victims of the outrageous sexual abuse scandals that came forth are very much alive, and they are angry. I don't blame them. The church has treated them abysmally and the Pope has begun to acknowledge how badly the scandal was handled by not only the Boston archdiocese, but by the American Catholic Church as a whole.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Cardinal of the Boston church, did everything within his power to cover up the scandal. He had no love for the victims, and instead he made sure that the offending priests were protected and moved from parish to parish, with each move covering up the abuse that followed these particular priests.

Because of the enormous size of the scandal within the Boston area, the Archdiocese had to reign in it's costs, which meant selling large tracts of land including the Cardinal's home, and many churches within the greater Boston area. The Archdiocese forced churches to close, to combine congregations, and to close Catholic schools just to cover the cost of reparations. The church closings, school closings, and the scandal itself didn't help to fill the pews in the churches within MA. Additionally, priests that were outspoken were asked to leave their long time parishes and moved to places where they were obviously being punished. That happened to a very beloved priest right in our small city, and the outcry was fast and furious.

Living in a community so seriously scarred by this scandal is often difficult. An innocuous question such as "What church do you attend?" can set off a rant that leaves me breathless with anxiety. I see how angry people are. Some of the closed churches have never been able to be sold because the parishioners are still holding 24-hour vigils more than 3 years after the churches were to be sold off. One in the next town, a church that used to house the twice-yearly Mother of Twins sale, has a vigil ongoing for years and years.

While I think this particular Pope is at least discussing the problem, his refusal to talk to the victims of abuse is a major mistake. This church needs healing, healing that is not going to be manifested by a few chosen words by the Pope on his airplane or at the White House party for his birthday. He needs to hear first hand what suffering these victims have gone through, and how their lives have been irreparably damaged.

Additionally, the Pope needs to address some of the issues of the Catholic church that remain unspoken. The large population of gay priests should be acknowledged and dealt with. I don't think there is anything wrong with gay priests, but when they are required to be celibate, then abuse of young men is going to happen, just as it happened in the past.

Protecting the priests that were involved in the sexual abuse of young men and boys is absolutely wrong and the church must create a policy that ensures that nothing like this will happen again.

The issue of celibacy is going to remain a problem in the recruitment and retention of priests. In this day and age, it isn't really plausible to expect young men to take a vow of celibacy and remain so throughout their lives. Ditto for nuns. Both of these populations have a poor retention rate because they are human and do fall in love and want to be sexually active. It just isn't working for the church anymore, and changes must be addressed.

Lastly, closing parishes and selling the parishioners down the river to pay for the scandals is, in fact, punishing the victims. The church is a fabulously wealthy entity, and the Vatican needs to open up it's coffers and pay for the reparations to the victims. Consolidation is one thing, but punishing the loyal parishioners by removing their beloved priests and selling off their church buildings just plain stinks. It needs to stop. I would like the Pope to talk about these issues and be willing to make changes within the church that benefit the churchgoers rather than the corporation the church has become.

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Pollen, you are killing me

I am not the world's biggest fan of trees. Oh, I like a tree here and there for shade, and I think that trees look very pretty when they're far away and in bloom. But trees...they are not nice to me. They spread their stinky pollen all over my yard, my car, my town, my state. They do so without any warning and certainly without any pity for those of us that are allergic. Then, when the sad people who are screaming about their headaches, their itchy ears and eyes, their inability to smell anymore, and their feeling of extreme exhaustion start to complain, the damn trees go into pollen overdrive and drown us in their yellow dust from hell.

So trees, you are my enemy in the spring. You make me feel horrible. You make the Boy's eyes so red and itchy that it looks like he's been toking up on a jumbo blunt. You make hives appear on my legs and arms. You are cruel and it must stop. I cannot get anything done for lo, I have the headache from beyond the pale. My eyes burn and itch. It is enough. We all suffer for the pretty flowers that you spread before us each spring. Flowers that do not last long enough to even make a dent in the hell you are causing the populace.

In the meantime, I will stay holed up in my little tiny home, only 1/2 the size of Mariah Carey's closet, that bitch, and I will pretend that trees are pretty and good for the environment and I do not have the desire to grab a chain saw and cut every damn one down so I can breathe again.

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I have officially entered Holiday Blues territory

I've been feeling crappy for days now, tired and depressed and barely able to get off my ass and do something. I've been snappy and pissy and sick and tired of people. Aha, it's the holiday blues. I get this way every year right before Passover. It's a combination of being overwhelmed with the amount of money I'm spending, the amount of work it takes to make a seder, and the amount of time I have to do all this in. It's hard hard work, especially when you have one totally non-cooperative child and one barely cooperative child in your home. Counting on them for help is useless. They resent it. They only want to reap the benefits of my hard work.

I usually don't fall apart this badly until the day before Passover, when I'm physically at my limit, and emotionally spend. But the I read this, and I cried for an hour. An hour. Over a complete stranger's loss. Oh, it was so sad and most of us who have lost beloved pets can relate. Go read it. Your heart will just break it's so sob-worthy.

Man, do I feel like a sap. Crying over Martha? What's next. Oprah? Dr Phil? Emeril? Please, just shoot me now.

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WFMW: Cleaning glass cooktops

Anyone that has a glass cooktop knows that they can be difficult to clean. You're not supposed to use anything scratchy for fear that it will craze and then weaken the glass, which will break. But things stick on the top and getting it clean again can be a compelling job.

I've tried pretty much every trick in the book, even resorting to razor blades to scrap off burned on stains. But what works the best?

Barkeepers Friend. The stuff you should be using to clean your pots and pans is amazing on my stovetop. It doesn't scratch the surface like cleanser does, nor does it get all sticky and gunky like liquid cleanser. You just pour a little on each of the rings where there are stains, use hot water to mix it into a paste, and then sponge. You might have to go over the stain a couple of times, but it doesn't scratch and keeps your stovetop in pristine condition. It works for me!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Hornones, the hormones!

I've been posting a lot about the Girl lately. She's making her presence very well known in the house. She's a bundle of raging hormones and frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of it. The screaming, the tantrumming, the threats. She's a real bundle of joy.

I got home from my 4th trip to the grocery store to get some 'last minute' stuff for Passover, and when I got home she was, of course, on the phone. I asked her to come help unload the car she she was not pleased. I was interrupting her. What a bitch I am. Just ask her. It's exactly what she told her friend on the phone.

I asked her to please finish up doing the dishes, since her MO is to do most, but not all of the dishes, and then move those she didn't do to the side of the sink. This drives me crazy. Obviously. The second I asked her, she (still on the phone) yells "Stop bitching at me!". Um, OK. Now I feel the steam rising and starting to pour out my ears.

I tell her to get off the phone and she yells at me some more. "How is this extra gallon of milk going to fit in the refrigerator?" she yells. I tell her to move stuff around and now she's furious. That would mean she might actually have to DO something. Which is against her religion, evidentally.

She starts screaming bloody murder at her brother, who admittedly is pushing her buttons, and when I tell her to shut her trap, she turns on me, punches me in the arm, and goes totally ballistic. I tell her to fork over her IPod right this minute and she refuses. I tell her again, warning her that if she doesn't, she will 100% grounded during school vacation next week. A fate worse than death, and she's experienced this horror before, so she knows the threat is real.

She gives me the Ipod and I tell her that she will get it back after school vacation, and she threatens me. Threatens me. And then threatens her brother when he cracks up.

So guess who is grounded next week for total mouthiness and a bad attitude? And guess who told ME I need an attitude adjustment? Oh man, she's really cruising on thin ice, that one. Vwey thin ice.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Are you smarter than a 10 year-old?

Um... what can I say? You know I think most people on game shows aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. But this one? Oy Vey!

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One high school saga I never expected

Oh my goodness, our city is a buzz with gossip tonight. It seems that the Girl's English teacher was let go today for some kind of improper behavior with a high school junior, one of his students. The Girl...she is beside herself. It was HER English teacher! She just cannot believe it.

It just happened today, and although the story has been substantiated by other teachers and her tutor, the Girl and her brother are in shock. The teacher was brand new, right out of college and this was his first year of teaching. The Girl reported all year long that he was a bit creepy, but very hot. I never met the guy, so I know nothing other that what she reported.

According to her tutor, there wasn't any actual sexual contact, but there were emails and other improper behavior that led the school to let him go.

No word at all from the Principal, which is highly unusual. I'm sure something will come soon. He's big on reporting anything and everything.

Meanwhile, the phone wires are burning up. This is the best thing to happen to the gossiping teens ever. The phone has been ringing off the hook, texting and IMing are going wild, and this story surpasses all the kids put on the waiting lists at the college of their choice.

It's been a tough year, but this is like free cotton candy for all! Nothing, but nothing is sweeter for a high schooler than good old fashioned gossip. We don't know who the girl in question was, but that poor kid. She's going to be the school celebrity, our own Britney right here in town. If I were her parents, I'd be looking at a long long vacation in the Bahamas. Like until mid-June.

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You say controlling, I say Asshat.

My friend is married to a really controlling cretin. There, I said it. But it's true, and it sucks for her and it sucks even more for her kids. They can't catch a break with this guy, any of them. He's just not nice. There isn't any way around it. It's the only conclusion one can make. Even his mother thinks he's horrid.

His behavior is amazing to me. I honestly don't understand why any person, whether a King or a President or a CEO or just a regular shlub thinks that they are more important than anyone else. It's so not in my nature to be like this. I'm the ultimate team player. I like to organize people into teams and then make the collective work together successfully. Not this guy. He likes to order people around, yell when they get in his way, and assert that his wants and needs are much more urgent than anyone else. This adds an incredible amount of pain, anger and stress for my friend and her kids.

The problem is, there's no dealing with this kind of person. Everything, and I mean everything, is a personal affront to him. This is a guy who throws temper tantrums in museums and theme parks if he doesn't get to do what he wants. Not what the kids want, what HE wants. I've seen this with my own eyes, and it is astounding. Nobody in their family counts with him. It's all about him, and if anyone gets in his way, he'll physically push them away.

My friend is miserable. She honestly can't take any more. I don't know how she's lasted so long. Truthfully, I'd have killed this guy by now. There is just no way that any woman should stand for this kind of treatment. But that's water under the bridge. She has stayed, and it's been terrible for her and for her family. However, at long last she's planning to make a break. It's going to be very slowly, because when you're dealing with a person like her husband, everything has to be done behind his back.

The planning is overwhelming. Making a record of their finances, which he controls and keeps fairly secret from her, is just the first step. She has to find an attorney, but at the same time interview every shark in the divorce law field to ensure that he won't be able to hire a real killer attorney due to conflict of interest. That's not an easy task either. But she's doing her homework and doing everything she needs to do quietly, so as not to alert him.

For me, it's very difficult to stand by and watch this continuing saga of pain for my friend. I want her to be happier. I want her to get her life back. I want her to be able to breathe freely in her own home. I want her to find her voice again, and to be able to use it without being cut down. She's the last of my friends with teenage kids to remain married. Everyone I know has gotten divorced in the past 10 years. In every case, it's been situations with narcissistic and controlling men. I don't know why, but it's true in every case.

Fortunately, most of my friends, being older, kept their careers and were able to split their households without too much financial pain. But I worry about the GenY women who have chosen to be SAHMs. They only have a few years left before their marriages start to crumble, and for the most part these women have no way of caring for their families by themselves. I'm not about to start the mommy wars, but I do worry that this entire generation that has reverted back to the 1950's model of moms at home and dads supporting the family is, in my opinion, a disaster in the making. I might be wrong, but as I watch each and every couple that I knew fall apart, I have to wonder just what is going to happen in the future.

My friend does work, and makes a decent salary. She'll be able to live a comfortable life, own a home of her own, and not have to change much about her lifestyle once she's on her own. I have great faith that she will be able to do this. But I'm very scared for her right now. I just wish it was all over already.

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