Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Here, Read This

I'm still sick. Horribly, awfully, abysmally sick. Read this, and don't give up on me. I will be back in the land of the living again soon.

No Suitable Title Comes To Mind

It’s funny how the details of our experiences are chosen by our subconscious and then preserved with perfect clarity, just waiting for something; an aroma, a snatch of song, a well loved painting, to resurrect them, while others simply disappear into the mists of time. I wonder how our minds select which memories we are allowed to retain, which memories will plague or comfort us the rest of our lives. I wonder why we can’t forget things best left unremembered. I wonder why we can’t remember things we struggle not to forget. I can remember my grandpa’s funeral. I can’t remember the sound of his voice. I remember the words he spoke, but not the tone or timbre. I want to.

The thing I remember most about that day is how tightly her impossibly cold hand clutched mine. She absently ground the bones in my hand together in her mounting anxiety. The fear and desperation were telegraphed through her icy grip. I tried once or twice to disengage my hand from hers, but she only clutched me more tightly. She had held my hand for the entire two hour bus ride, and every minute since then. I stopped trying to let go and accepted that I was her lifeline to sanity and safety until this whole horrible mess was over with. I was 17 years old.

When we reached the clinic, I was told I could not accompany her since I was not a relative or an adult. But when she quietly but emphatically refused to let go of my hand, the stern faced nurse/receptionist relented with the admonishment that no monkey business would be tolerated. We exchanged looks. Neither of us had the heart for monkey business. The suggestion was mildly insulting, but we were too scared and sad and sick to protest. We only nodded mutely and followed her broad back through scarred and yellowed swinging doors. The mingled odors of smoke and antiseptic made me a little queasy. My stomach lurched. I swallowed hard. She swallowed hard. Her grip tightened.

We were shown into a tiny examining room, where she was handed a paper gown and curtly told to remove all of her clothing, even her panties. The nurse gave us a hard, searching look before closing the door behind her. Suddenly my fear was replaced by anger. We were young…looking back it breaks my heart how young we were… and we shouldn’t have been in a place like that. But we didn’t deserve to be treated with such disdain. And I was angry at him too. He should be here. He should see this. See her. I cursed him for a coward and thought about the night he had tried to kiss me; laughing at how I trembled, knowing I needed to hate him for what he had done to her and not caring. But I had pushed him away, and the surprise on his face was a satisfaction like none I had ever known. I held onto that anger and used it to blunt the edges of sharp fear that knifed through me.

She cried as she undressed. I didn’t know what to do or say to make her feel better, so I busied myself with folding her clothing into neat little squares as she handed them to me. I rolled her socks into a ball, and carefully concealed her pink polka dotted underpants beneath a crease in her blue jeans. I folded her enormous GAP sweatshirt into a fleecy mound and then placed the entire pile on top of her shoes and turned to help her with the gown. I had not seen her naked recently. Once we had undressed in front of one another with no thought to embarrassment or modesty. But for many months now she had kept herself covered with baggy shirts and heavy jackets. Winter in Wisconsin was an accomplice to the concealment of her burgeoning form. I gasped audibly as the truth of her condition and our reason for being here hit me like a slap in the face. She blushed through her tears and pulled the gown closed.

We sat, quietly, timidly, waiting.

A man came in and introduced himself as Dr. X. He surprised me by being kind and gentle. Seeing her tears, he pulled out a handkerchief and swabbed her face. He told her it would be alright. He told her they would take care of her. He told her the most important thing anybody had ever told her. He said, she was not a bad person. She didn’t believe him, of course. How could she? But she needed someone to say it. She needed someone to believe that she was not a sinner or a coward or a murderess. Her sobs turned to small hiccoughs and the tears slowed. He examined her quickly and then said, “Let’s take care of this so you can go home, okay?” She clambered into the wheelchair obediently and he wheeled her out. I was unsure whether to follow. Surely they wouldn’t let me in THERE, would they? I didn’t want to go. But the susurration of the rubber wheels halted and she turned to beseech me with an outstretched hand. Our eyes locked and I shrank from the pleading. I looked at the kindly doctor, willing him to forbid me. He looked at me for an impossibly long moment and then inclined his head for me to follow.

"I AM NOT THAT STRONG!!!!" I longed to shout. But I followed meekly without uttering a sound.

To this day, I don’t know why he wanted me to go in there. For her? For me? For a larger purpose? To preach the gospel of abstinence? I wish I could find him and ask him. I wish I could tell him how that experience changed me forever. I wish I could tell him thank you for being kind to her. To us.

The nurses, who were not unkind, but who went about their business briskly, placed her on a table and erected a barrier over the lower half of her body. Seated at her head, I was relieved, but it made her uneasy. She couldn’t see what was being done to her, and I suppose it would have scared me too. She was given several injections and an IV. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I knew it was too late for any of the “easy” procedures. I was gripped by panic, suddenly. I didn’t want to see this. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to know how a problem like this is solved. She grew groggy and I wished for some of what they had given her. As she drifted, her grip on my hand slackened. Freed, I did not know what to do with my hands. They stole to my chest and hovered over my heart, which felt as if it might burst from my chest. I must have looked stricken and afraid, because the kindly doctor came and lifted my hand from my breast to hold it in his own. It was huge and warm. He said "You're a strong young lady. She's lucky to have you for a friend." I felt a little better. His approval cheered me, and the anger I had felt at his refusal to grant me asylum from this ugliness abated.

He disappeared and returned gowned and masked. I knew it was time to begin. I tried not to hear. I recited poetry and song lyrics and movie quotes in my head, desperately avoiding the bloody reality unfolding beyond that flimsy white barrier. At one point, she began to cry out in pain and I felt sick again. He assured her it was almost over and indeed, as he spoke, I heard what I knew was the sound of her body yielding the contents of her womb. A slick sound followed by a small forlorn thud, and it was over. She panted with relief. I sagged against the table, still sick. There was a smell that permeated the room, a smell that was rich and human. Years later as I attended my first birth, memories that had long been buried were resurrected by that smell. Then, it had meant death to me. Now I know it as the primal aroma of new life.

She was taken to recovery where she slept for what seemed like hours and hours. I was left alone with my thoughts, unable to concentrate on the novel I had brought with me anticipating a lengthy wait in the waiting room. I could not banish the thought of what I had seen by accident as we exited the procedure room. I glanced back for reasons still unknown to me. I saw a nurse with a shallow pan. There was blood on the rim and some smeared on the sides. She laid the pan gently on a metal table, and then, touched the contents in what I can only describe as a caress. There was sadness in her eyes. I looked away quickly, not wanting to witness the disposal of that tiny little body. But her tenderness brought tears to my eyes for the first time that day. Someone understood that this was not just a "problem" or a "procedure", but a baby. A baby that was now, dead. Part of me was very angry with her for not acknowledging that. I was angry even though I know that it would have destroyed her to think of the baby as a living breathing creature. I tried to work through my anger and confusion as she slept. My own judgement bothered me. It could have been me.

When she awoke, gray and trembling, my anger was gone, replaced by a deep weariness. I wanted to go home. And so we did. On a dirty bus, back to our clean lives where nobody knew what we had done. I went back to school while she stayed home "sick". I endured the looks and the whispers while she hid. We stayed friends for many years, but we never spoke of that day again. Ever.

I think the experience touched us in different ways. I became a birth junkie and eventually a doula; eager to rejoice in each and every new life, entranced by the miracle of birth. She has no children. I wonder if her heart aches when a baby cries. I wonder if she is haunted by the abesence of that child. I wonder if she will ever get over what happened. Mere spectator that I was, I don't think that I have.

You might be surprised to learn that I am vehemently pro-choice. I would never, ever consider an abortion for myself. I just couldn’t do it. But I have never been a scared teenaged girl with elderly parents who were devout Catholics and preached the wages of sin as death and eternal torment in the fiery pits of hell. I never had to face the prospect of being ostracized by my family. I have never been a victim of a sex crime, forced to carry the offspring of my attacker. I have never been desperately poor with too many mouths to feed already. I have never been told my baby had a defect that was incompatible with life, or that if the pregnancy was brought to term, his or her life would be filled with pain and suffering.

I have only been a girl who was raised in a lower middle class family with loving supportive parents who would have helped first and lectured later. I have only been an adult in a safe and healthy relationship, with the means to provide my children with everything they need and most of what they want. I have only been me, and I can only decide for me.

I do believe that abortion is taking a life. I do believe it’s wrong. For me. But I also believe that I, and only I, have the right to decide. It’s a sad and terrible thing with no easy answer. So ask the right questions and follow your heart. Don’t let political rhetoric and religious dogma influence a decision that YOU will have to live with the rest of your life.

And please, for the sake of every child that ever has or will draw breath, do not mistake abortion for birth control. Life is too precious to hinge upon the adolescent shame of purchasing condoms.

My friend and I have lost touch. I don't know where she is now, or if she has exorcised her demons. I hope she has forgiven herself. I forgave her a long time ago. I hope she can forgive me for not telling her that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reposting Rethinking

I am never setting foot inside the elementary school again. Ever. Beause I swear, every time I spend more than 6.5 seconds breathing the germ ridden miasma that passes for air in that place, I end up sick. I spent 2 hours on Friday at the welcome desk, and I am now, sick as the proverbial dog. You know that kind of sick where your eyeballs feel like they are on fire and your chest feels as though someone is tearing open your sternum with a chainsaw every time you draw breath and your bones ache down to the very marrow? Cakewalk.

I thought I could write something decent to post, but my fever addled brain can scarcely formulate a coherent thought. It was all I could do to feed my kids breakfast and make sure they faked brushing their teeth. SO...I tried to find something to repost that ya'll haven't read 47 times. I chose "Rethinking the Right to Die". It's not one of my high profile posts, so I'm hoping that some of you haven't read it. If you have, my apologies. Koff. Koff.

Rethinking the Right to Die

I have been trying, without success, to write a piece called "The Right to Die". The piece was going to be about how science and medicine have blurred the lines that nature has drawn between life and death. I was going to opine upon how man, with vainglorious certainty, has circumvented the safety measures nature put into place to ensure the integrity and longevity of our species.

I was going to cite cases like that of Terry Schiavo, Juliana Wetmore, and Johnny Kennedy, and how these cases clearly illustrate that just because we can save or prolong a life does not mean that we should. I was going to denounce the selfishness and cruelty of condemning a person to life of pain and suffering, or vegetative nothingness.

But I'm not going to do that. There are two reasons.

First, my children are happy, healthy and whole. The most pressing medical issue we have had to face is whether or not to have tonsils removed. My husband has never been seriously ill or injured. My parents are still with me, and although my mother has a chronic illness that will eventually take her life, she is not in immediate danger. I have never had to decide whether someone I love should live or die. I have never had to wrestle with the decision to extinguish the life growing within me because it is flawed in some way. I have never faced the prospect of living my own life with a big, aching, empty hole in it.

I like to think I would be strong enough to let them go if their quality of life was so seriously diminished as to be devoid of all dignity and humanity. I like to think that my need to have them with me would not infringe upon my ability to make a sound decision. I like to think I would have the courage to grant them the peace that death would bring.

But if I am completely honest, I have to admit that I, like most of us, would give and do anything for just a little more time with someone I love. I would beg and plead. I would sell everything I own. I would offer my own life, surrender my own dignity. I would prevail upon every medical miracle available. I would even pray. I would promise a God I have doubted and ignored my undying loyalty and devotion if only he would let them live. So I can't, in all good conscience, criticize someone for a choice I would likely make myself, despite the knowledge that it might be the wrong one.

The second reason is a little more difficult to explain.

In gathering my thoughts about this piece, I solicited the opinions of some friends. These friends are mothers, and they have among them, an Autistic child, a premature child, and a child who was born with Spina Bifida. They helped me to see that "Quality of Life" is so highly subjective that it defies measurement and therefore, we cannot simply create a list of qualifications by which we determine the validity of existence. We cannot assign a standard by which to assess its value. And we cannot deny the fact that worth lies in perception, which is as widely varied as human beings themselves.

Who can say why a person is put here and what purpose has been set forth for them? Who gets to say that a life is sufficiently devoid of merit as to justify its termination? Who defines the terms by which we would govern those decisions? Me? You? Doctors, Lawyers? God?

In thinking about all this, I was taken back to my oldest child's infancy. There were several of us in the neighborhood with new babies. All of them looked and acted like any healthy infant should; all except Zach. His hair was flaxen blonde and his eyes were the purest cornflower blue. From the eyebrows down he was the most beautiful child I've ever laid eyes on, and when he had a hat on (which was most of the time) he looked like any other baby. But if one looked a little closer, they would see that his beautiful blue eyes were curiously vacant and that his hat seemed unusually large upon such a tiny little body. But sadly the hat was filled with his head, which was terribly misshapen by Hydrocephalus.

Zach, like my son, was born when prenatal diagnostics were becoming widely used and available. But somehow his condition was not detected until birth and the damage to his poor little brain was catastrophic. It was difficult at such a young age to determine how much awareness he really had, but the doctors felt that beyond feeling basic physical sensations such as cold, wet, hunger, and pain, he had very little sentience. He was completely blind, and would never walk or talk or have control of his bladder and bowels. I felt tremendously sad looking at him, as I contemplated the hopelessness and pointlessness of his existence.

His mother would bring him to our little gal pal group and set his seat among the rest of the babies. As they grew and became mobile they struck out eagerly to explore their surroundings while Zach remained confined to his seat. But curiously, they would return every now and then to bring him a toy, offer him a little pat, and inquire in sweet nonsensical baby babble, if he needed anything. They were taking care of him. They were learning compassion and empathy and acceptance from a child who was scarcely conscious. And I realized then that his existence was not as pointless as I had naively supposed. So he had taught me something as well, and I suspected that he would teach a great deal more before his time on this earth came to an end.

So...I won't talk about the Right to Die. I won't attempt to define Quality of Life. I won't pretend to have the solution to an issue that is largely philosophical. Instead I will simply try to recognize the inherent worth of all who share this plane of existence with us. And if the time ever comes that I need to make a life or death decision, I will try to be strong, but I will forgive myself for being weak.

In the absence of any clear cut answers, I think it's all that we can do.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The One Where I Ramble About Christianity and Bad Apples

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I've written quite a bit about my lack of faith, my discontent with conventional religious practices, and my frustration with the double standards bred and perpetuated by Christianity. But what I have't written much about is the fact that I was raised in a Christian home.

For many years, God just was.

I didn't question his existence. I didn't look for proof and I didn't look for evidence to the contrary. I believed because I was taught to believe. And I had parents who tried very hard to model what they taught. I don't believe now that Christianity and morality are mutually exclusive terms, but what I knew then was that the reason my parents were so good, was because they wanted to please God. And for that reason, I wanted to please God too.

It was simple. It was easy. It was what was.

But even kids, at a certain age, begin to realize that those who talk the longest and the loudest about what being Godly means, don't necessarily hold themselves to the same standards that they hold others. They use their Christianity as a talisman against the consequences their bad behavior. They use it to excuse and justify. And if they harbor private doubts, they have their salvation to assure them they are going to heaven. They have Jesus in their heart, after all. And Jesus doesn't let his sheep burn in hell, even if they deserve it. Right? Right.

Love they neighbor? Yes, of course, but only if they are Christians. Whites. Heterosexuals. Republicans. Affluent. Forget that Jesus preached love and tolerance and treat non-Christians as if they are the scourge of society and will taint you with their impiety. God will forgive you.

A child can recognize hypocrisy even if they can't name it, and the seeds of discontent were sown before I knew what discontent was. Still, it wasn't until I was a young adult that I became really disillusioned, skeptical and bitter.

So I called it quits with God. But not really. Because in the back of my mind, I wasn't really ready to say that there is nothing and nobody out there guiding us; a higher power holding us accountable, answering our prayers and giving us hope.

I understand why people turn to alternative religious beliefs. Because none of us, even the most avowed atheists, really wants to believe that we are on our own. That there is nothing after death but death. That life is just a series of random events.
That's a big, scary heart squeezing thought, and even that atheist is looking for something that makes sense. We all want to know there is a reason for being here.

So, though I wasn't entirely ready to abandon my belief in a higher power, I was more than ready to say that Christianity was not the spiritual compass by which I wanted navigate life. Who needs church and Christians mucking things up? I could be spiritual anywhere.

Except that I wasn't. And for a very long time, it was okay. I was worshipping at the church of young single womanhood and I hadn't a care.

But then I started getting older, and all of us, as we get older, tend to examine things a little more closely. We begin to take stock. We begin to wonder what it's all for. And when children enter our lives, we begin to see things in a new light. Innocence means something again. The cynisism leaves us as we watch our children discover the world through fresh, unspoiled eyes.

And there's that feeling...the feeling that something as wonderful as innocence can't be an accident. And then we begin to see miracles again. And we wonder, if maybe, we haven't been a little hasty. Maybe, just maybe...God really is as good as we once thought him to be. Maybe...the goodness of children is God's way of balancing out the stinking plague of evil in the world.

And then we begin to worry about protecting that at all costs. Can something so divine be protected without divinity? Can our precious, unsullied children survive the ugliness of life without the benefit of spiritual guidance, comfort and reason? Have we denied them something VITAL?

It's enough to give even the most stalwart non-believers pause, and yes, it has given me pause. I wonder if I am denying my children the solace and certainty that comes with belief in a spiritual axiom.

So what has me thinking about this? Well, it's part of a slow awakening that comes with getting older I guess. For a long time I've been thinking about all the reasons I abandoned faith and thinking that maybe, I let the wrong things influence me. I can see shades of gray now, where before, my eyes would only perceive black and white.

So, I've been inching slowly, inexorably closer to a new journey towards spirituality of some kind. It's the way I do things. I examine. I ponder. I gather snippets of information like squirrels gather nuts for winter, storing them up until I need them. And then, I do it all over again until I'm comfortable making a decision. It's laborious, but it has served me well.

So this is where I have been for several years and I'm making some progress. Am I lost? No, I don't think so. I'm really okay. For the first time, however, I'm willing to consider that I could be better.

But it's amazing how one person can derail another on their life journey.

Now...I know that nasty, bitter, hypocritical and judgemental people come in all shapes, sizes and religious affiliations. And I know Christians have not cornered the market on bigotry or narrowmindedness. And I know that nobody can be a perfect, unblemished example of their chosen beliefs all the time. People make mistakes and have bad days. They get angry, depressed, downhearted and disillusioned. In other words, we are all human. I get that. And so did Jesus.

But when one is struggling, questioning, searching....the representatives they encounter from any group have a huge impact on them. And when a person, who repeatedly and stridently stresses their affiliation with a certain group...let's just say Christianity... but continually acts in a manner that contradicts the teachings and tenets of that group...well, it just serves to underscore all the reasons one left that group to begin with. And it makes one question all over again the wisdom of returning to a group that sanctions such behavior.

I have recently encountered such a person. I have been dealing with her for two very long months. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am somewhat incredulous. And I find that my motivation to suspend my skepticism and open my heart to new possibilities has been drastically undermined, if not completely destroyed.

I know this is wrong of me. Logically, I realize that she does not exemplify Christianity and that every group has it's wingnuts. And I know it's wrong to let one person influence my feelings about anything. But I still can't help wanting to run as far and as fast as my legs can carry me from church, spirituality, Christians...the whole shebang.

Our time together is, thankfully, drawing to a close. But the experience has left me wondering. I wonder if any of us is really aware of how our behavior affects other people and their opinion of the myriad of things we represent. I wonder if I have influenced people positively with respect to the various things I have represented. Yankee. Agnostic. Wife. Stay at Home Mom. Breastfeeder. Doula. PTA Member. Team Mom.

Was it...

"Gee, she's pretty cool for a ___________. I need to get together with her more."


"That's exactly why I don't _____________. I'll steer clear of her and ________ from now on."

I hope it was mostly the former. I'm sure there are times that it was the latter.

I think we could all be more aware of how we influence people with our words and actions. People evaluate and judge. A deed or a comment that may seem insignifacnt to us, might carry a wealth of meaning for someone on the outside looking in.

As for myself...well, I have a pretty bad taste in my mouth right now. But I realize ultimately, my path is deterimined only by me.

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it after a journey no one can take for us or spare us."
~Marcel Proust~

Thursday, October 19, 2006


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I've received some emails recently due to several comments I left on Her Bad Mother's site regarding Spirited Children. People have been asking me how to know if they have a Spirited Child and what can they do about it?

First keep in mind that Spiritedness is not a diagnosis, but a classification. There is no medication. There is no therapy, per se, though sometimes a child is Spirited to the degree that the involvement of a behavioral therapist is beneficial. Also keep in mind that all children have some Spirited traits, and some children have all Spirited traits. This does not make them Spirited. It makes them kids.

Mary Kurcinka says:
"The word that distinguishes Spirited children from other children is 'more'. They are normal children who are "more" intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children."

I can't recommend her book "Raising Your Spirited Child" enough. If you suspect you have a Spirited Child, do yourself a favor, and buy it. It's not a magic wand. But it is a valuable tool. And you will feel, for the first time perhaps, that somebody gets your kid.

That said, the best way that I know to paint a clear picture for you, is to share a slice of my own life, in all it's unflattering reality, with you. I have written about it before, but it was really about his behavior as an infant and toddler, and why I first began to suspect something about his behavior was "different".

My purpose is not to scare those of you with possibly Spirited Kids, but to help you understand what Spirited is. And...more importantly, to let you know that losing your cool sometimes is okay. And being human is okay. In fact, I think our Spirited kids need to know how their behaviors affect people. That it makes Mommy feel angry or sad, that it makes big brother feel frustrated, that it makes teacher feel disappointed.

With that in mind, I will share with you one of the recent crazy making conversations with Diminutive One.

Tuesday Night at the Ball Park, after having played his game in the pouring rain, now watching his brother's game, in the pouring rain. Mom is sitting in the bleachers. Enter, Diminutive One...

D.O. (after having already eaten a burger, fries and a Sprite): "Mom, can I have some peanut butter cups?"

B.A.: "No, Diminutive One, I only have a few dollars left and poor Dad hasn't had anything to eat yet.

(Husband was coaching back to back games that night, one 6-8, one 8-10

D.O.: "Don't you even have some quarters so I can get some bubble gum?"

B.A.: "No, I don't. I used all my change to pay for parking at my eye appointment the other day."

D.O.: "Yeah, but I bet you got some more."

B.A.: "No, I haven't."

D.O.: "Could you just look in your purse?"

At this point, nothing will appease him except to see for himself. I emptied out the change compartment of my wallet, which yielded one nickel, one dime, and 7 pennies.

B.A.: "See, no quarters. Not even enough to equal a quarter."

D.O.(suspiciously):"Let me count it."

He counted. He frowned. Then he brightened as an idea occured to him.

D.O.: "What about the change tray in the van? You always have change there!"

B.A.: "No, I told you, I used change to pay for parking. I took all the change from there."

D.O: "Can I go see?"

B.A.: "No."

D.O.: "Why?"

B.A.: "Because the parking lot is a dangerous. And now that it's dark, a driver might not see you."

D.O.: "Will you go with me?"

B.A.: "No. I know it's empty. I don't need to go look. And I'm trying to watch your brother's game."

D.O.: "Mom, I KNOW there is a quarter in there! Just let me go see!"

I was starting to get frustrated. I was trying to watch the game, and I had already missed a good deal of it arguing with him. But, I tried to stay calm and use all my "tools".

B.A.: "Diminutive One, if you don't stop pestering, I'm going to have no choice but to move you down the ladder. That means you will be in the bottom green, and you will lose your computer privileges. Neither of us wants that to happen, so I don't want to hear any more about it."

Pestering is on our behavior ladder because it is a HUGE problem. He knows this, and he knows what the consequences are. But even with my reminder, he can't help himself. He really can't. He was silent for a moment, wrestling with his demons. He lost.

D.O.: "Mom, I'll be careful. Just PUH-LEEZ let me have your keys so I can go look."

I had no choice. I didn't want to do it. But I had to.

B.A.: "Dimiunutive One, I warned you. That's two spaces for pestering, buddy."


A temper tantrum ensued in full view of parents and onlookers. One grandmotherly looking lady commented under her breath that he needed his butt whupped. Her companion replied that "You just can't' do that kinda thing in public no more. You got ta wait til you git home to give 'me what fer." Gee, thanks, ladies.

I attempted to calm him down by grasping his arm firmly (okay, I squeezed some) and looking him in the eye. I forced him to look at me as I spoke to him.

B.A.: "Diminutive One, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior. You are not a baby, you are an eight year old boy. I warned you what would happen and you chose to ignore my warning. You made bad choices. Calm down now, or I will have to move you down FOUR spaces for having a tantrum, AND, we will have to leave the game."

He calmed down, but he remained very angry with me. He sat sullenly, kicking the bleachers until all the parents were completely fed up with him. I told him were were leaving and we did. When we got in the van he said,

D.O.: "So, Mom, will you check the change tray now. I know there's a quarter in there."

I snapped. I did. I'll admit right here for the benefit of everyone.


Yes, I said shut up. Yes, I said goddamn. I'm not proud of it.

The reality of it is that I had kept my cool and dealt with him constructively all day. That conversation was but one in a series throughout. Imagine having ten conversations like that every day. More, even. From brushing teeth to doing homework to getting dressed for baseball...all of it is a struggle. And all of it involves much arguing, negotiating, and pestering.

If he doesn't go into politics or law, I don't think there's much hope for him to make an honest living.

I was tired. Damned. Tired. And beaten down. It had been a busy day, and we had been at the ballpark in the cold and pouring rain for hours. Neither of us was in the right frame of mind to be dealing with conflict constructively. Circumstances were ripe with potential for a "spill-over" tantrum. From both of us.

He cried then, and of course, I felt like dirt. I issued an apology, something at which I've become incredibly adept. We hugged one another when I tucked him in bed, but there was still resentment seething in both of us. We went to bed demoralized.

The following day, at the grocery store, he was drawn to the vending machines filled with bubble gum, jawbreakers and plastic bubbles with cheap but eye-catching trinkets within. I knew before he even opened his mouth what was going to come out.

D.O.: "Mom......"

B.A. (wearily, steeling herself for battle) "Diminutive One, don't even start with me. I have no quarters. I have not been to the bank. I have not been to the store. No quarters have magically materialized in my wallet overnight. DO NOT ASK ME FOR QUARTERS."

He, wisely, zipped it. But as we are approaching the checkout he had an epiphany.

D.O.: "Hey, you have a credit card, right?"

I knew where he was going and I tried to head him off before things got ugly again.

BB.A.: "I have a debit card, not a credit card. You can't get quarters with a debit card."

Well, you can, if you really want to, but I think that's a precedent best left unestablished. He sighed heavily.

DO: "But...."

B.A.: "Diminutive One, I'm asking you nicely, just don't do it.

D.O.: "MOM, there has GOT to be a way to get some quarters! Can't you just ASK the cashier?"

I could have. I probably should have. But I had chosen to die on that hill and by God I was going to stick it out to the bitter end. He ended up moving down four spaces during that grocery trip as he almost always does when we go to the grocery store. I avoid bringing him with me whenever possible, but sometimes, I just have to.

During the course of that same evening, he moved all the way to the bottom of the ladder, resulting in a loss of nearly all privileges. Which is really punishment for me too, but....he has to be accountable for his behavior in some way. All because of his persistence. He has the tenacity of a bulldog, and once he has sunken his teeth into something, he will not let go until he has worried and gnawed it to pieces.

Persistence is his most troublesome Spirited trait. He just won't give up. In some ways, it is a remarkably useful and powerful trait to have. It has served him well in many ways and will continue to serve him well during his life. But it can be incredibly destructive as well.

I try to remember the positive when I want to strangle him.

So there you have it. A slice of life with a Spirited Child. It has not been exaggerated, or sugar coated. What I recounted here is reality. And it is a daily reality. Maybe this is your child. Maybe it is a child you know. If so, please be kind to yourself or that other parent. Parenting this kind of child is incredibly challenging, incredibly frustrating, incredibly disheartening. And parents who beat themselves up for losing their temper now and then are really holding themselves to an unrealistic standard that will only leave them disheartened and unnecessarily angry with themselves.

You're human. Give yourself a break. Ignore the kindly advice givers. Do what works and what gets you through the day.

And you know what? He has great days too. And underneath the behaviors that make me want to pound my head against the wall, is a good kid with a kind heart, a great sense of humor, and a keen intellect. The biggest thing I have learned, and the hardest thing to convey to others who must deal with him, is to separate the kid from the behavior. He sometimes has bad behavior. He is not a bad kid.

I hope that helped someone out there. You are not alone.

FOOTNOTE:For those who have asked about the ladder...I cannot take credit for this idea. I got it from Becky Dilley, after watching a news program about them. I was so impressed with her creative and constructive approach to discipline that I decided to try her "ladder" idea. We did adapt it a little bit to our own needs, but the basic principle came from her.

How it works is this....We assign problematic behaviors a space value depending upon their severity. Lying, a biggie, is 4 spaces, for example, while a less consequential offense such as not hanging up jacket and backpack is 1 space. Each segment of the ladder is made up of six spaces, and each segment has privileges. At the top level, the child has all privileges. He moves down based on behavior. When he leaves a level, he loses the privileges associated with it. Computer, television and video game privileges are the first to go, and it goes on down. At the bottom, there are no privileges. Basically all they can do when they are at the bottom or, red, level, is read, draw, and play quietly by themselves.

If the child has not moved down in a given day, he is allowed to move UP two spaces. If they remain at the top for an entire week, they are given a small reward. A trip to get ice cream, a video game rental, meal at their favorite fast food restaurant, etc....

Becky also uses "Dilley Dollars" and while it is a great idea, it proved ineffectual for us and I felt it complicated matters to a degree that I was not motivated to keep up with it. I simplified things to make us more inclined to be consistent and follow through.

Here is a link to her ladder. As I said, ours is a little different, and the wonderful thing about this concept is that it is easily adapted the individual needs of a family.

It has worked well for us when we are CONSISTENT with it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mary, Called Magdalene

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As some of you know, I'm a Godless Heathen. But I'm inexplicably drawn to books, both fiction and non, regarding religious history, religious figures, or religious doctrine. I find them incredibly interesting from a historical and anthropological standpoint and I think that being spiritually detached affords me a certain objectivity when reading them. I've read quite a few, and my "to be read list" contains countless more. Because of this, it has been suggested that I am "searching", that I have a "need"... a "yearning". Could be. But I prefer to think of myself as a recreational theologian rather than a lost sheep.

Anyway, I've just finished Mary, Called Magdalene, and I thought I would share my thoughts for the benefit of my fellow bibliophiles.

Initially, I found myself completely absorbed by this book. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the religious beliefs of this period, (namely Judaism) and the zeal with which they followed ritual practices to remain "clean". I also enjoyed learning about the region of Judea and having all the places I'd learned about in Sunday School brought to life as bustling enclaves of industry and commerce. It was interesting to read of Antipas and Tiberias and Caesar; how they ruled by caprice and how their people were subject to their whims.

It pleased me to encounter characters that I knew, such as Zaccheus, and the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof, and Joseph of Aramathea, and the woman with the alabaster jar and to read of them as ordinary people, rather than sketchy figures in a dry religious tome. It gave me a warm fuzzy of familiarity that stayed with me through much of the book.

In terms of detail and facts, I cannot find fault. Obviously, Ms. George did exhaustive research. I'm sure there were instances when she had to rely on her imagination to fill in the blanks, but she did so in a manner that was seamless in it's authenticity.

The characters, sadly, were lacking in depth and interest. I really wanted to read about Jesus the man and I wanted read about his disciples as living, breathing people. And of course, I wanted to hear about Mary's relationship with Jesus, as well as how and why she became branded for eternity as a whore. I did. Attention was given to each of these and the facts were presented painstakingly. But I found the characterizations to be pat, perfunctory and bland.

Strangely enough, the appearance of Jesus is where things begin to go bad.

I expected a strong, heroic, and somewhat romantic figure. I expected to be captivated by him. I expected to be devasted when he met his brutal end. But Mrs. George's character arc does him an injustice by portraying him as little more than your average zealot. He isn't compelling, or inspiring and his preaching comes off as mildly deranged ranting rather than divinely inspired wisdom. I wasn't affected much by her Jesus. I didn't really even like him.

The crucifiction, which I would have thought a pivotal point in the story, was incredibly anti-climactic. It was written in a strangely dispassionate fashion that left me thoroughly unmoved.

Mary alone was fairly well developed and I did get a sense of the woman she might have really been. I felt genuine pity when she was afflicted with demons, joy when at last they were exorcised, and outrage when her family cast her out for choosing to follow Jesus. I felt her anguish at being denied access to her daughter. I liked some of the apostolic elements, particularly the correspondance between Mary and Elisheba, which really underscored the tragedy of their separation.

Reading this book was not a complete waste of time. But it was not the sweeping, engaging and illuminating epic that I wanted it to be. I only paid a couple dollars for it on, so I can honestly say it was worth the price I paid for it. Nothing galls me more than handing over $20 for a book only to find that it stinks.

I didn't pay $20 and it didn't entirely stink so I guess I came out on top. Make of that what you will and read at your own risk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sometimes the System Goes on the Blink

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And the whole thing turns out wrong.

We received news yesterday that a dear friend has been diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach and colon cancer. It has spread to his liver as well. He is young and fit and had absolutely no symptoms whatsoever. Over the weekend he began vomiting and couldn't stop. Thinking he may have food poisoning, they trekked to the ER, expecting to get some meds and go home. Many hours later he emerged from surgery minus most of his intestines and part of his stomach. That is all we know at this point except that they are travelling to New York, where his family lives, to see a specialist. Can a person live without a stomach?

The thought makes me anxious to the point of almost vomiting myself. It's my worst nightmare come true. I have a profound fear of something like this happening to me or my husband, and now it's happened to someone we know. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it, and I have this compulsion to call the doctor and ask her to conduct every test under the sun on Husband.

They have two young children and he is a wonderful father. I was their doula for the birth of their first child, and I can still see the look of wonder on his face as he cradled his newborn daughter. He kissed her tenderly despite the fact that she was still slippery with birth blood. He wore the expression of a man who is completely and utterly smitten. Their son was born only a couple of months ago and I know he must be over the moon.

He's a loving and devoted husband as well. The wife, K, is a great gal. We share a love of books, which is how we met. She was a co-worker of Husband's and he casually mentioned to her what a book whore I was. We began passing books back and forth through Husband without having met one another. When we did finally met, I liked her immediately. She is bubbly and quirky and fun, but a little high maintenance. J takes all her little neuroses in stride and I think that he even finds them genuinely endearing.

He's quiet. At first, I didn't know what to make of him. Was he antisocial? Unintelligent? Socially inept? Turns out, he was none of those things. He's just a guy who listens. He's an observer. He notices things. And he stakes stock. He doesn't waste time or energy on meaningless chatter, but when he does open his mouth, out come some of the most hilariously funny things you've ever heard. The first time it happened I was so taken aback by his dry comment that I think my mouth actually dropped open.

They moved from Georgia to Wisconsin last year and we haven't seen them since. I kept thinking I should call, I should email, I should write. But I didn't. Typical, right? We all do it. But now I feel really bad that I didn't try harder to get in touch. Last year, we tried to stop in and see them on our way up North at Thanksgiving, but they were in New York visiting family for the holidays. I have this awful sinking feeling that we may never see him again.

I'm angry. He's a GOOD guy. This shouldn't happen to people like him.

So there's that. And the weather is awful. It's pouring rain and the chill I so enjoyed yesterday has disappeared and it is once again steamy and swampy and disgustingly warm.

I had planned to make Lasagna, caeser salad and garlic bread for dinner. It's the first night in forever that we haven't had to be at the ballpark and I was looking forward to a nice family meal. I dragged Diminutive One to the store after his conference, which is always an exercise in frustration, only to find that Husband will have to work late tonight. And, I forgot the wine.

But dammit, I'm making Lasagne. And, I planned to eat it while enjoying "House" this evening. We haven't had much ass in chair time lately either so I consoled myself with that idea.

The cable is out.

For the second time in two weeks, we have lost service AND our entire DVR cache is deleted. Gone. Defunct. Non-existent.

I am not amused.

The cat is missing. He's gone missing before, for almost a month, which is how we ended up with three cats. The kids, Pre-Pubescent One especially, are beside themselves. I'm sorry the cat is gone, I really am. I love him too. But I am so tired of the DRAMA. Pre-Pubescent One is THE most dramatic child on the face of the planet and I am sick. to. death. of his morose speculation about the cat's whereabouts. His unrelenting doomsaying is driving me up a wall.

Two sullen kids and one cranky Mom are not a recipe for anything other than disaster with a capital D. The grumpiness has become it's own entity, growing, darkening, feeding on itself until I can hardly even open my mouth without something like "No more WIRE HANGEEEEEEEEEEERRRRSSSSS!!!!!" coming out.

I am putting my kids in bed, like NOW, and hosting the Mother of all pity parties albiet, without libations. Anyone care to join me? If so, bring booze. Lots of it.

I apologize for the extremely whiny and self-indulgent nature of this entry. I'll make it up to you when I'm done biting the heads off of live bats my children's heads off.

I need a blue sky holiday. I need Spiritual Lipstick. I need a housecall from Hugh Laurie. Stat.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Nigger by Any Other Name: Part II

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Alright. Forget all that heartwarming garbage I posted yesterday. I do. I do want my babies back. Because this shit is hard and I don't want to do it anymore.

There was a fistfight in my front yard yesterday. When Husband went out to break it up, nobody was talking. The only thing we could discern, thanks to Diminutive One, is that our son had been gut punched by another child. Husband sent all the other kids home. He called the parents of the other child involved and explained that there had been a fight but that he was unable to get details from either child.

Five minutes later she called back and said that Pre-pubescent One had called her son a Nigger.

Husband and I were thoroughly and completely shocked. Sick. Sad.

Because we live in an area of the country that has been so thoroughly ravaged by racism and slavery, and is still divided to a degree, we have tried very hard to instill love and acceptance of all people in our children. Not just black people and other minorities, but fat people, skinny people, mentally challenged people, physically disabled people, people with buck teeth, people with big ears. Everybody deserves to be loved for who they are, not what they look like. This is what we have preached, this is how we have lived.

We have encouraged our children to enjoy and embrace other cultures. We have friends of many different ethnicities, through whom we learn about and experience all the wonderful ways in which we differ from one another. We have taught our children that these differences make the world a richer more beautiful place.

And we have suceeded! Our children do not see color, they do not hear halting English, they do not feel the rifts caused by religious divergence. They see a playmate. A friend. A human being.

Pre-Pubescent One is greatly enamored of the African American culture. From the clothing styles to the music, to the slanguage, he loves it all. This is because he has a great many African American friends whom he believes to be the epitome of cool.

My point is, he's no Strom Thurmond. And it's just not in his nature to hate. Which is why the incident was so puzzling and heartwrenching.

Husband and I knew we had to get to the bottom of this thing and fix it. Fast.

Once we had all calmed down, we talked about it. As the facts began to unfold, it became clear that he really had no idea why the word was so terribly insulting and demeaning. Why? Because he had heard his black friends use the word with one another on many occasions.

I know, that's hard to swallow, but stay with me here. I'm not excusing or condoning the use of the word.

My son has never heard that word used in it's orignal context and all the horrible connotations it carries. He has never heard it spoken with contempt and loathing. He has never heard a white man address a black man in this manner. So by sheltering him from this word, we were doing him, as well as his African American friends, a grave disservice. Our intent was to raise a child without the taint of racism. What we didn't realize is that we had to first teach him what it was, to then teach him what it wasn't.

Of course he knows about slavery, but it's a concept in a history book. It's a long forgotten thing in his mind. Slavery is abolished and everything is a-okay as far as he's concerned.

Which brings me to my second point.

I am not black. I can't even begin to understand what it is like to be black. So I realize perhaps I am missing some vital element that would aid in my understanding. But I have said before that I couldn't quite grasp why a people would want to hang onto a word that historically signified opression, hatred, and persecution for their race. But, I never really considered that it might one day impact my life, and so, I suppose, I decided that while perplexing, it was of little import to me.

But now I understand that a word such as "Nigger" affects all of us. Because the it's sad and shameful history will never be dissociated from it, no matter how hard we try. We can't make it a symbol of brotherhood, or solidarity, or triumph, because for too long it was just the opposite. It's a word that unleashes all the hatred and terror of the ages every time it is spoken.

So a hapless child comes along, a child who doesn't appreciate the subleties of racial imprecations. A child who sees only right and wrong. Black and White. And this child uses a word he has heard his friends use, his friends' parents use. A word that is written in song lyrics and spoken in interviews. A word that is seemingly harmless. A word that is often said with a smile and a good-natured poke. A word that is accepted and even embraced by a very large segment of the American Population.

Honestly, how was he supposed to know it's bad?

The way it went down was this:

There was a verbal argument. I'm not sure what it was about, but I think it was a dispute regarding the game they were playing at the time. The other child knocked my son to the ground in a tackle, whereupon my son hit his head, hard enough that it made him cry. If you know anything about 11 year old boys, you know that they would rather vomit than cry in front of their friends. So it must have really hurt. The other child laughed and jeered. This, understandably, angered Pre-Pubescent One. He said to the other child,

"Shut Up Nigger!"

The child punched him. And I suppose, if I were a black child, I would have punched him too.

But he did not say,

"You're nothing but a filthy Nigger."


"I don't talk to Niggers"


"We don't want any Niggers around here."

Now I know that the word is shocking and sickening no matter the context in which it is used. And he knows that now. But then, he was simply saying something that he had heard them say to one another 100 times. To him, the word was comparable to "sucker".

So we, as a AMERICAN people need to decide, is this a good word, or a bad word? I do not believe it can be both. And I do not believe it can be okay for one race, but not for another. We either strike it from our vocabulary never to be spoken again, or we attempt to nullify the historical implications by making it a part of our common usage. I prefer the former. I don't think the latter is realistic.

My son learned a very hard lesson yeserday. He lost a friend, and he had to face some very angry (and large) parents to apologize. I am concerned that he will face further repercussions on the bus and at school. I hope to God he doesn't get his ass kicked.

And the thing is...I don't really think it's his fault. I'm not going to punish him. I'm sure that many will disagree with that decision. But I am choosing to educate, rather than penalize. He doesn't understand, so I need to make him understand.

I think he needs to watch "Mississippi Burning" or "Roots" or "Rosewood" or "The Ghosts of Mississippi". Maybe I will take him to the King Center. I regret that we did not visit a plantation while we were in Charleston. The Boone Hall plantation has one of the most complete collection of slaves quarters in the country. It was jarring to me to look in those tiny, dank, earthen floored hovels and realize that whole families lived in them. It would have been tangible evidence for him of how horribly slaves were treated and what the African American race has overcome. It's one thing to hear his father and me preach about how African Americans were once treated with less kindness and humanity than dogs. It's quite another to confront it face to face.

So, it a bad word, or a good word? Do we preach against it's use, or do we ignore all the evil inherent to it and accept it as part of a cultural vernacular?

Someone please make a decision so I can let my kid know. Thanks.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Saying Good-Bye to Babies

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Today, I climbed the creaky stairs into the dim and dusty attic, searching for three little boxes. They are labelled "Newborn", "3-6 mos.", and "6-12 mos." I found them in a dark corner, along with a baby tub, a trashbag full of Playtex bottles and nipples, and a smiling wooden hobby horse whose shaggy mane, from the looks of it, has provided many a meal for the creatures who dwell there.

I dragged them downstairs and opened them, breathing in that peculiar, musty unwashed clothing odor, and remembering a time when those tiny things smelled sweetly of baby powder and Desitin.

My children are 8 and 11. I still have every stitch of clothing they have ever worn. I still have caps and booties and bibs. I still have teethers and rattles and stuffed lovies. I still have the stroller, the exersaucer, the baby swing, and the bassinette. I still have dogeared and drooled upon board books, lullabye tapes, and the white noise machine that once held a baby picture.

For a long time I kept these things because I thought I would have more babies. I was raised to economize by parents who struggled to make ends meet, and so, I dutifully packed things up, labelled them, and put them away for the next child. I was sad to put them away, because it was an all too wrenching reminder that my babies were growing up with a speed that left me with an ache in my breast, wondering where the years had gone. But I looked forward to the day I would bring them out again. The new baby preparations were such a satisfying thing for me. I loved washing and folding those tiny, fleecy, fluffy things and placing them into drawers with scented pink and blue liner.

Over the years, I grudgingly loaned things to my sister, but only after exacting promises that they would be returned in the same condition as they were given. For the most part, she honored my request, though a few things were too soiled with the stubborn residue of long eaten green beans and yellow squash. A couple of toys did not withstand the rigors of toddlerhood and were bid a sad farewell. But my frugal nature was gratified that our things had gotten so much use and were well used and loved by children who meant almost as much to me as my own.

As the years passed, we began to realize and accept that we would not be having any more babies. For a very long time I waffled between being glad to have the days of sleepless nights, leaky breasts, and all things poop behind us and desperately longing to feel my belly filled once again with the weight of our almost baby. My husband carefully raised the issue of vasectomy from time to time, only to be confronted by a tearful wife who proclaimed she wasn't yet ready to close the door on the possibility of bringing forth new life. Because although I am a spiritually ambivalent, the miracle of birth is one I believe in with all my heart. I wasn't quite ready to say never again, and mean it.

Eventually, however, our life settled into a rythym that has been freeing and pleasing. Our boys are older and self-sufficient to degree. My days are my own. We sleep the entire night through, if we please. We can sleep in on Saturday mornings while the boys feast upon nutritionally bereft foodstuffs and questionable media. We can leave home on a whim, we can go where the day takes us. We do not have to plan around naps and nursing.

I won't lie. It's nice. And often when I look back on the days when I had babies, it is with a mixture of fondess and antipathy.

Still, when I brought down those boxes and began to pull out those things, there was a twinge.

And I realized that the real reason I hadn't sold them or given them away, was not because I hadn't yet admitted to myself that my days of rocking babies was past, but because my days of rocking THOSE babies was past, and that never again will things be as innocent, or as simple, as the days when a cuddle with Mommy would soothe any hurt.

My oldest one, at 11, looks me in the eye. He has girls, and sports, and hip hop music on his mind. I am no longer the center of his universe. He no longer tells me his secrets. And one day, another woman will lie next to him and listen to his hopes and dreams. My time is growing short.

My baby is 8. He is spirited. He challenges me daily and I feel that his babyhood was spent trying to keep him alive and me sane. I just did what I could to get through each day. Because I also had a toddler to deal with, I didn't get the luxury of spending hours alone with him, just playing, or reading or talking. I want to go back because I didn't know then how much I would regret not relishing every, single moment. Even the tough ones.

Recently a friend had a baby, and since she has chosen to stay at home, they are struggling with the loss of one income. And I have all these things....

I decided it was time to say good-bye to my babies, and welcome the young men they are growing into. The memory of that first step, that day in the park, that night spent watching over the first fever, that first day at school...those memories are not attached to the clothes they were wearing that day. They live in my heart, and they will be there always. They will be there long after those clothes will have rotted into dry and dusty rags.

So I'm folding baby clothes once again. I have washed them and restored them to April freshness. And I am enjoying it as much now as I did then. But instead of looking back, I am looking forward to new memories. The first dance. The first date. Graduation. Marriage. My first grandchild. Not all the special moments live in the past. Some lie ahead. And only by letting go can I appreciate them fully when they come.

I will still cry, and remember the way they used to be when those moments come. But I will not be sad that they have grown, but happy that they have grown into strong, confident, happy men.

To my sweet boys,

You made me a Mother and you taught me what it was to love without limit or condition. Now I look to the lessons you have yet to teach.

Good-Bye Babies. I will love you always.

Hello Young Men. I look forward to learning who you are.



Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Thrill of Victory...Maybe

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Well I'll be damned. (Yes, literally, but right now I'm speaking figuratively).

Bitacle is no longer scraping my feed. They have not removed the content they have already pirated, but my last three posts are absent. Usually, a post is snagged within about 3 minutes of publication on Blogger. So the fact that three days have gone by since the last raping scraping is encouraging. It may mean that he has deleted my feed from his automated system.

Could it be that easy? I don't know. What I do know, is that if one searches for my blog on Bitacle, one is immediately confronted by text stating that the website one is surfing is illegally stealing content from me for financial gain. Not only is it displayed in the main entry, but the two teaser boxes linking to previous and subsequent posts at the bottom of the main text box.

To whit:

Word is spreading (thank you blogosphere) and people aren't stupid. They are realizing that anybody is a target for these bottom feeders. A lot of people are taking action, and I believe it is going to make a difference.

But if your feed is being scraped, and you're posting a disclaimer at the BOTTOM of your posts, it's somewhat ineffectual. Nobody will see it if they are casually browsing Bitacle. And even an interested and committed reader won't see it until they've already read your pilfered content on the site that pilfered it. This is particularly true if you've set your feeds to display only excerpts.

Yes, the disclaimer is obtrusive and annoying. But if it means Jesus and those of his ilk are thwarted, I'm okay with seeing it plastered on every blog from here to kingdom come.

Also, I've noticed that many of the buttons and graphics are not appearing on Bitacle. I don't know why some display and some don't, but if you relying on a graphic only to alert readers to stolen content, you may want to add some text as well. I do think eye catching buttons and graphics command attention, and do a great job of making of making bloggers and blog readers aware of the problem, so by all means, continue using them.

If you're fortunate enough to have escaped being scraped, don't assume you are "safe". Be vigilant, stay informed and keep abreast of the latest information.

StopBitacle.Org and Plagiarism Today are both great places to get the most current news about the issue and Lorelle VanFossen regularly posts about splogging in general on her site. Her archives are chock full of useful information and resources as well. If you haven't gotten a Creative Commons license, do so. It costs nothing and can help protect you if your content is stolen. Copyscape is another helpful tool.

If you are new to blogging, or considering starting a blog, be aware of which blog host sites offer protection from scraping. I know that Typepad and Wordpress are working to combat the problem with plug-ins. To my knowledge, they are currently the only ones doing so. If you choose to publish a feed, (there are legitimate aggregators out there like Bloglines, Blogatrithm and Technorati) set it to display only excerpts of your original text.

None of these things alone will make you immune to being scraped, plagiarized, splogged or ripped off. But used together they can minimize the likelihood, and give you some recourse should it occur.

We can do this. We are doing this. Rock on Blogosphere.

Friday, October 13, 2006


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My oldest son is not the most trustworthy kid in terms of keeping track of his belongings. Part of this is just because he's a kid, but it's also due to his ADD. Though he takes medication and it helps a great deal, he still has difficulty with certain things.

I've lost things, of course. Once, when I was 9 years old, I lost a brand new pair of glasses. I hadn't had them two hours. The worst part was that I had wheedled my mother into letting me get a pair of frames they really couldn't afford. I absolutely dreaded telling my mother I had lost them. To my amazement and relief, she did not get mad. All she said was, "I'm afraid we'll have to get the less expensive frames this time."

I try to remember that when my kids lose something. But it drives me crazy, and quite often, I end up lecturing.

He has lost approximately 17 lunch boxes, 27 pairs of gloves and 11 hats. He has lost a Gameboy and a portable CD player. He has come home from sleepovers with an empty backpack and in this manner we have lost 3 pairs of blue jeans, countless pairs of socks and underwear and at least one pillow case. I won't even get into how many jackets and sweatshirts he has lost. I don't have enough fingers.

Two Christmases ago, my husband suggested that we get him a bat he had been coveting. He was in a major hitting slump, which resolved when he began using a teammate's bat. He was convinced the bat was responsible. I agreed. Usually, my kids receive one pretty sizeable gift each Christmas along with several smaller items and I hadn't yet hit upon a good idea for him that year. My enthusiasm diminished when I found out that this bat, an Easton "Stealth", cost over $200. Along with the aforementioned items, he has also lost 3 baseball gloves, 2 bats, and 4 pairs of batting gloves. I didn't think that placing a $200 bat in the hands of a child who can scarcely keep himself clothed was a particularly wise thing to do.

Amazingly, the bat is still accounted for.

Last year, we bought him an iPod Nano for Christmas. It was given with the understanding that it would NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. It's tiny and the potential for misplacement (or theft) is just too great. For a while, he obeyed that edict without question. When he entered Middle School however, and discovered that he posessed an item that afforded him a much desired coolness, he began sneaking it to school. Last week I caught him. He had left it in his backpack and while cleaning the kitchen one day, I heard strains of music issuing forth. He was busted by the real Slim Shady.

So I confiscated the iPod for an undetermined period of time, pending discussion with Husband.

I lost it.

It's in the house somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can figure out where. I put it on top of the fridge until I could locate a suitable hiding place. It's not there anymore, and I have searched high and low. All my usual hiding places are empty. It has vanished into thin air.

And like that day so long ago when I lost my glasses, I absolutely dreaded telling him that I had lost his iPod. After all the times I had lectured him about being responsible, about losing things we spend our hard earned money made me a little sick.

But I had to come clean and so I admitted that I couldn't find it. I expected a tantrum. I expected sulking. I expected him to relish the irony and lord my hypocriscy over me until the end of time. I expected to be guilted into granting any number of special favors and/or privileges until at last I had demonstrated that I was sufficiently chastened and contrite.

All he said was "That's alright Mom. Everybody loses stuff. It'll turn up."

Damn. He's good.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Revolution Resolution; Freedom to Unplug

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I, like millions of Americans, have a cell phone. I have your basic free with sign up cheapola get the job done Nokia. It's not slim and cute. It is not pink. Why? Because I bought my cell phone for emergencies. Not to take picures. Not to text message. Not to play videos. Not to email.

Let's take a moment to examine the definition of emergency, shall we?

What an emergency is NOT:

  • Sitting in traffic bored out of your mind.

  • Not being able to remember the name of that actress in that movie.
  • Wondering what your wife is cooking for dinner.

  • Needing to know if your divorced bff scored with that hot single doctor.

  • Your toddler pooping in the potty for the first time (this also applies to first word, first step, etc.)

  • Realizing your forgot to set the Tivo to record Desperate Housewives.

  • The overwhelming need to tell your spouse/SO how much you love them.

  • Split ends. Chipped Polish. Large Pores. (I promise, the salon will still be there when you get home)

What an Emergency IS:

  • Labor.

  • A drunk or unsafe driver.

  • An accident.

  • A stall, yours or that of another vehicle.

  • A crime in progress (an actual crime, not a crime of fashion).

  • Unforeseen circumstances resulting in no adult being present when your children
    arrive home from school.

  • Keys locked in car (assuming purse and cell phone are not also locked in car).

  • Child, pet or elderly person locked in car.

  • Being late for work.

  • Experiencing vomiting or explosive diahreah behind the wheel.

Seems pretty clear cut, but judging by the number of idiots driving around with the phone attached to their ear, apparently not.

I am thoroughly fed up with people driving down the road yakking their brains out, oblivious to the fact that they are behind the wheel of a two ton instrument of death. My children and I have had many close calls at the hands of such individuals. For that reason, I have become intolerant to the point that I will lay on the horn if I see people talking on their cell phone for an extended period of time, espeically if they are driving unsafely because of it. Metro Atlanta has some of the worst traffic in the nation and Metro motorists are making it worse by causing accidents that were completely avoidable by say...paying attention to the road.

Also, If you are conducting a conversation of an extremely personal nature in a public place, do not look at me as if I am intruding upon your conversation. This has happened to me any number of places, most recently yesterday, as I was perusing the eye creams in Target (I can't afford the ones that give a gal real hope).

Some woman was in the aisle discussing with another party the very personal issue of whether or not she should have a boob job and why. I was honestly trying not to hear. Perhaps some people are titillated by being privvy to the personal details of another person's life. I am not. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I suppose that's why I dislike reality teleivision. It embarasses me. But she was making no effort to be discreet. There was no way I could escape knowing her tits were nearing her knees thanks to bearing that selfish bastard five children.

At one point, she gave me a scathing look and barked into her phone, "I'll call you back." She flipped it shut with a loud snap and shoved it back into her bag. The nerve of me trying to shop. In a store.

Also, if you are speaking to me and your cell phone rings. Don't answer it. Just don't. I don't care if it's the Dalai Llama calling to reassure you that you're not going to spend your next life as a Shihtzu. It's the height of rudeness. Also, don't answer it and say "Just a minute" and then look at me expectantly, in a way that is meant to convey I should wrap it up so you can take your call.

And I absolutely loathe those ear thingies. They are really quite ridiculous and pretentious. Is it necessary to conduct business while you're watching your kid play baseball? Are you THAT important? If you truly are, then surely you can pay someone to watch and give you a play by play synposis later. We (your son and I) certainly would not want to take you away from issues of such import that catastophe looms in your absense and disaster will surely strike without your involvement.

Where have our manners gone, people? Have cell phones rendered us completely devoid of common sense and courtesy? Is it really necessary to be available every single moment of the day? Why are we so compelled to be plugged in, turned on, and wired up? What has spawned this horror of missing something?

Guess what? I forget mine all the time. Sometimes, my battery runs out and I forget to recharge it for days. I don't have a car charger. Not once has this resulted in a calamity. Unless you count not realizing my family wishes me to stop for fast food a calamity. I'm sure they do.

Let's take back our personal time and interact with our families without interruption. Let's finish a meal, let's watch a movie without intermission, let's speak in complete sentences.

Just say no to cell.

The Eyes Have It

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Currently, my pupils are the size of quarters, and apparently, they are going to stay that way for another 24 hours. I went out and ran some errands, terrified of being stopped for some routine traffic violation, only to have the cop take one look at me and realize I was high as a kite.

"What are you on Ma'am? Ma' am? Do you have it on you? Get out the car please. Lie down spread eagled with your hands behind your head while I search your mini-van. Dispatch, I'm going to need some backup here."

Gauchos and sandals aren't really felony attire. Or is drug possesion a misdemeanor? I'm so not up on my drug offender penal code.

I can scarcely focus, and the usually soft glow of my computer screen is driving spikes of agony into the backs of my completely exposed and vulnerable eyeballs. The seeing in the dark thing is kind of cool. Unfortunately for me, I am not the undead. seems I am a go for surgery, so I can deal with looking like a overweight anime drawing for a couple days.

I have chosen to have my procedure done at Emory Vision Center.

It's one of the best in the country. It's a little more expensive than most places, but truthfully, I haven't done any comparison shopping to know exactly how much more. If I'm going to have my corneas sliced and diced, I'm not interested in a bargain basement doctor. I want someone with an honest to goodness medical degree, not a certificate he got in Tijuana on his last vacation. I've seen the results of those Mexican boob jobs on TLC. I don't want to end up with irises as walleyed as the nipples on those unfortunate gals.

I was extremely impressed with the whole set-up and with the staff. They were courteous and personable without being overly solicitous. The technician who did all my corneal mapping and various other tests (you can ultrasound an eyeball...who knew?) chatted with me happily and easily and the doctor never made me feel like I was keeping her from something really important. She explained everything thoroughly and she seemed HAPPY that I was asking questions. A doctor who encourages questions...what a novel concept.

There was lots of comfortable seating in the thoughtfully dim lounge, and the hospitality room offered a nice selection of flavored coffees, sodas, fruit juice and bottled water. But the best part...there was an abundant selection of CURRENT magazines. Yes. Not one was more than a few weeks old. I had brought a book as I always do, anticipating a dearth of reading material. But since I was 30 mins early (I planned for bad traffic, but got lucky) I fully enjoyed thumbing through "Entertainment", "InSyle" and "People". I didn't give "Time" or "Newsweek" a second glance.

I am scheduled for surery on 11/03.

It's hard to believe that in three weeks, I will no longer be fully dependant upon glasses or contacts. I've been wearing them since the third grade. That was long before they had the sophisticated grinding techniques that they have now, and I suffered through many years of wearing "Coke bottle" glasses so heavy they would scarcely stay on my face. I remember the sticker on the lense craze. I had a silver puppy dog. It drove me nuts but I pretended it didn't because everyone else had one.

I started wearing contacts back when you had to put use the heat disinfection machine. Then they came out with those fizzy tablets that smelled like eggs and that was really something. No more heat! No more lenses that baked into hard yellow scales. Yeah. It's fun to put that in your eye. It's a wonder more people didn't go blind from corneal abrasion and infection. Because I know that I went just as long between cleanings as I possibly could. My lenses would get so cloudy it was like looking through a soft focus camera lense. But the more you disinfected them, the faster they wore out, and back then, those suckers were expensive.

But no more. No more paying $400 for a pair of glasses. No more farting around with nosepieces and bows and adjustments. No more begging the eye doctor to give me just one more pair of contacts until I can squeeze in an appointment. No more feeling vulnerable without those blasted things perched on my nose. No more "blind as a bat."

WOW. Just...WOW.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


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I am going for a Lasik consultation today. And while I'm thrilled beyond words at the prospect of being free of the glasses I have worn for 30 years now, I am not looking forward to the procedure, the pre-procedure procedures, and the post-procedure procedures. I have a procedure phobia, you see. And because of this phobia, I am a chronic doctor avoider.

I had to have my gall bladder removed several years ago. This used to be fairly major surgery, as a large incision had to be made, and the liver discombobulated quite a bit to gain access. Both my mother and my sister have huge scars from their cholescysectomies and took weeks to recover.

But these days, they do this procedure laparascopically. It's minimally invasive, with a much lower pain quotient, and much faster recovery time. It's a piece of cake, is what my doctor told me.

Still. People were going to poke things into me and cut things out of me, and I didn't like it one bit. Not to mention that I could go to sleep and never wake up.

The night before the surgery, I didn't sleep a wink. I was so anxious I was on the verge of vomiting all night long. The day of the surgery, I played it cool for my kids, but I was a nervous wreck. In pre-op, they gave me a sedative to calm my nerves. My blood pressure was too high because I was freaking. The flock. Out. They couldn't put me under until my pressure was down. I suggested an epidural, thinking this would allow them to operate while easing my fears about waking up dead. They laughed. I wasn't joking.

They gave me another dose, and another. Finally the anaesthesiologist told me he couldn't give me anymore. I lay on the metal operating table naked, which, as you can imagine is thoroughly relaxing, and tried to will myself into a state of non-hysteria. Finally, my pressure came down and they could begin.

Twenty minutes later I was in recovery. All that anxiety for twenty mintues. Once I realized I wasn't dead, I felt pretty foolish about my behavior. I hurt like hell, but not as bad as I expected. I got up to use the bathroom five minutes after waking. Then I wanted to get as far away from that place as possible. I think I went home an hour after the procedure. I had none of the gas pains that some people experience from having laparascopy. I recovered very, very quickly, and I was really amazed, and embarassed, by how easy it had been.

You would think that would have eased my fears a bit in regard to surgery. You would be wrong.

So now I have opted to have my eyes surgically altered by a laser. Crazy. And what's crazier, is that I have to lie there awake and watch as the laser beam vivisect my eyeball. There isn't enough Versed in the world. And yet, I am voluntarily undergoing this procedure.

Today they will dilate my pupils and take all kinds of measurements. No biggie, right? And yet I look upon this with almost as much dread as the procedure itself. I. hate. doctors. I. hate. procedures. Of any kind. wake in the night and be able to see the bedside not have to feel my way to the see my husband during be able to wear fashionable sunglasses and have multiple pairs to suit every fashion need and every not have to stick torturous plastic dinner plates in my eyes and carry bottles of artificial tears in my purse, my glove box, the beach bag, the gym bag...

I can't even imagine that kind of FREEDOM.

Is it worth a little anxiety? Hell yes.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


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A Neighborhood in Wisconsin
Very much like the one in which I grew up.

I have lived in the South 20 years. For about five of those years, I didn't realize how much I would grow to hate it. I was young and single and I was way too busy doing all the things young and single people do to really evaluate or even understand the kind of life I wanted to have once the club hopping, the binge drinking and the merry-go-dating came to an end. And, because I wasn't especially interested in the culture outside the Perimeter, I didn't immediately appreciate all the ways in which life here is at odds with my personal beliefs.

Now I have and now I do. And it's quite a dichotomy.

But it's more than that and it's less than that. Because when I experience a wave of homesickness so strong that it can pull me under and hold me there for days, it's usually triggered by something much less consequential than religion, or politics. What does me in is....

The weather.

When I lived at home in Wisconsin, fall was my very favorite time of year. I loved the perfume of rotting leaves, and later, pumpkins decaying on doorsteps and porches. I loved the way the air felt in my lungs. I remember sucking in great lungfuls just to feel the cold, clean bite of it in my chest. It felt different somehow, from lush green summer air. Even the sun shone differently in the fall. It was a kinder, more humble warmth. We could play all day in the crispness, never sweating and never catching cold. And then evening would come, and the first little tendrils of winter would make itself known in the delicious chill that stole over the neighborhood. We would draw on sweatshirts and sweaters, enjoying the soft kiss of fleece and yarn on arms that had been too long bare. Heaven.

My mother would begin to make hearty, belly filling things. Stew, soup, chili. It was good to be full after nibbling away the summer, too hot to digest anything substantial. We would drink hot apple cider or cocoa, while the adults wrapped their hands around mugs of steaming coffee. It was good to be warm from the inside out.

My sisters and I would play for weeks in the leaves that fell from the enormous oak tree on our back yard. We would comb the neighborhood for discarded boxes and then drag them home to our backyard. We would fashion them into a labyrinthian structure, join them with copious amounts of masking tape, and then heap them with leaves, creating a cozy, rustly, womb in which to tell secrets and write imagined things. We would beg our mother to let us sleep in it and she would reluctantly agree, knowing full well that it wouldn't last. We would drag sleeping bags, pillows and stuffed animals in there, and have a fine time giggling conspiratorily for an hour or two. And then we would traipse back inside to warm beds. My mother never said a word as she kissed us good night on cold pinkened cheeks.

Once, we built a pile of leaves so tall that it reached almost to the airing porch off our second story bedroom. And somehow, we took a notion to jump from that porch, into the pile of leaves. I remember sitting on the railing poised for flight, holding my sister's hand. I remember seeing her fear and elation and the way the wind excited the hair around her face. And then we jumped. It seemed like mere seconds before we hit the leaf pile, and we were disappointed. We scrambled up spitting leaves and raced up the stairs to do it again, resolving to jump higher this time. We jumped for an hour before my mother caught us. She, fearful of what could have happened, scolded us with a tremor in her voice and fire in her eyes. "You could have broken every bone in your body!!" she declared. And so we could have. But what fun we had. What fun.

Eventually, the romance of fall would fade as the landscape became more dead and barren, and winter loomed near. And we would begin to wish for snow to cover up the bleakness of skeletal trees and dry brown grass. And when it came, we were glad to say goodbye to the autumn. But it was magical while it lasted.

There is none of that here.

When autumn comes to the South, it is fleeting and capricious. There is always a lengthy Indian Summer after the tantalizing coolness of those first fall mornings. It keeps us guessing. People rush out to buy pants and jackets, only to find that temperaturs have soared again into the 80's, and sometimes beyond. There will be only a few truly glorious days that are pleasantly chilly before the gray, wet, dreary winter sets in.

For twenty years I've been homesick. For autumn, for my family, for the memories that are so hard to hang onto without the familiarity of home. I long for life before the South. And I'm sad that my boys will never know the joy of autumn in it's most spectacular sense. They will only know the pallid, unremarkable end of summer that passes for fall here.

I want to take my boys and go home, even knowing that I will never see autumn through a child's eyes again. They can see for me. And it will be enough.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Question for the Ages

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Throughout the ages, Man has struggled to solve the mysteries that define and validate his existence. The search has led mankind on a long, arduous journey that has taken him from the deepest darkest jungles on earth, to the cold, dead landscape of the Moon.

On this quest for meaning, there have arisen some profound questions of universal significance, the answers to which have been and are still being pondered by some of the greatest minds in history. Some have been answered. Some still plague us with their dogmatic complexity. Some still woo us with the promise of existential clarity.

What is the origin of Man?
Is there a "Higher Power"?
Is there life on other planets?
Are we alone?
Is there life after death?
What IS the meaning of Life?
Why is the sky blue?
Is the world flat?
Is the Moon made of cheese?
Where does the soul go when the body dies?
Is there a literal heaven and hell?
Does Satan exist?
Will good triumph over evil?
Does life begin at conception?
Do we possess a sixth sense?
Can the dead inhabit the earth?
Can we communicate with them?

For those questions that can never be answered with any kind of certainty we have invented Faith. We have contructed entire belief systems around the fact that some questions have no answers. Because Man, in his obduracy and egotism, cannot believe that such truths are beyond his reach. And so he chooses to believe that someday, all will be clear to him if only he believes in something he cannot see, or touch, or hear. It gives people hope.

There is one question in particular, that has caused me great personal torment. There is burning need in me to understand and the lack of elucidation has kept me up nights pondering. I can't help but feel that an answer to this question will lay to rest the nagging uncertainty and confusion that plagues me.

What I need to know, is....