Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheapskate

Every family has an individual known for their frugal ways. More often that not my sister was content to count her piggy bank while I snacked on Dunkin' Donuts. During their divorce proceedings my mother in law considered my wealthy father in law's desire to purchase furniture from Rooms to Go symbolic of his major character flaws. Then there is the motto of my paternal grandfather, "You can call me cheap, but you can never call me broke".

Our immediate family's penny pincher is my 4 year old son. Thelonious is 4 and not entirely clear as to which coins are which, but his love of the almighty dollar is deep and true. In the case of a fire, he'd run back to get his stuffed dinosaur and wallet. He once demanded we pull over on a long interstate highway trip, so that he could check on his money in the trunk. On the rare occasion that he allows himself to be separated from his purse, the reunions are complete with smiles, hugs and tears.

My son and I share the kind of disposition that is automatically sunny upon awakening. He has yet to loose a tooth. The mornings after the tooth fairy visits his sister are nothing short of apocalyptic. Never mind that she is happy to share the loot, promises of candy and ice cream split right down the middle, do nothing to quell his rage. To completely date myself, he's all about the washingtons,.

So far he hasn't attempted any at home dentistry and all his teeth are still in his mouth. I'm just glad he doesn't know that you can sell your blood!

Books of The Week

I'm reading Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. My initial reservations about the book centered on the unlikelihood a financial professional and his corporate lawyering spouse would take up residence in The Chelsea Hotel, even in the chaotic aftermath of September 11th. Putting that plot contrivance aside, so far it's been enjoyable. I'm still processing The Bishop's Daughter: A Memoir and hope to crystalize and articulate some of my feelings about it soon.

Kids Lit this week includes Junie B.Jones and her bad syntax havin' self. And The Viper, which wins bonus points because my daughter can read it in entirety to my son!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who should never, ever be confused with this woman)of FL has publicly acknowledged her battle with cancer. Her illness, which included a double mastectomy, left her weakened but determined to keep her condition hidden from her peers. Her health restored, the congresswoman is now a ardent advocate for breast cancer screening for women under 40.

I can't imagine the physical and emotional strength it took to function as a congress person, (actively campaigning for Clinton then Obama) wife and mother of 3 children under 10.

With the help of her staff she was able to attend a fund raiser for Nancy Pelosi, a pain pack hidden under her clothing. She kept her cancer a secret because she didn't want people to feel sorry for her, didn't want that knowledge to hinder her abilities in other peoples estimations.

Would she have had to go to such lengths if she was man? In general I find these "what if" games fruitless, each circumstance so unique. But for whatever reason, it's been nagging at me.

Of course we have FDR's paralytic illness and Kennedy's Addison's disease. But more recent depictions of illness, cancer in particular, usually include an arc of strength and heroism in the narrative. Wasserman Schultz's colleague Arlen Specter comes to mind.

Ultimately, I hope that female public figures don't have to make decisions based on antiquated notions of fragility.

I wish Wasserman Schultz's continued good health. She's proven she's strong enough to take whatever the Republicans could possibly throw her way.


Friday, March 27, 2009

HBO

According to Troy Patterson HBO has a dud on their hands in the form of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The San Francisco Gate is kinder, calling it lyrical, but ultimately says it has a CBS Hallmark movie vibe.

Which pretty much damns it for this Deadwood fanatic.

Even though I couldn't get thru a season of John from Cincinnati that's what I want from HBO.

I have been known to swim in the shallow end of the TV viewing pool by cozying up for a night of CBS. But I tune into Cold Case fully expecting unintentional laughs and awful acting. Thank you writers and Kathryn Morris for never disappointing me!

I valiantly attempted to finish one of the books in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency but was unsuccessful. The situation was far from ideal, I was in an overcrowded, understaffed, city hospital having a miscarriage while correctional officers wheeled laboring inmates by. But Troy Patterson confirms my negative impression of the books. So despite compromised circumstances, my literary instincts were spot on.

I'm hoping Grey Gardens salvages HBO's april.

Condron.us

Thanks to Good Amy I found condron.us, giving me yet another tool of procrastination.

On second thought, I probably shouldn't be thanking her!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Latifa Lyles on the Today Show



Our Family's War Effort

My mother in law is a Fundamentalist Christian with the extremist views most associated with those two words. And we get along famously. We avoid topics like stem cells and Sarah Palin, instead focusing on our shared love of her son, embroidered children's clothes and celebrity gossip.

So I did nothing to stop her from introducing my daughter to the world of American Girl Dolls. Asking my mother in law not to buy things is like asking the sun not to shine. Instead we act as a team. She gets to fulfill her shopping jones and I use the dolls as a starting point for conversations about challenging issues such as gender, race and class.

Everybody's happy!

Last summer's Kit Kittredge movie prompted us to ask my grandparents about their lives during the Great Depression. It was a series of touching conversations that left a lasting impression on all four generations. Of particular interest to Mirette was the concept of a Hooverville which was depicted in the film. At the time my grandparents were small children who had no specific recollections to share. Unfortunately before all is said and done my daughter might have some stories to share on the topic with her grandchildren.

Mirette's attentions have now turned to Molly who is growing up in World War II America. After watching Molly's movie, Mirette was pensive. Because of the heavy themes (not all of the enlisted men come home alive) I had viewed the movie ahead of her. I thought it was appropriate and we had a talk before the show began. Upon it's completion I asked what was on her mind. After confirming that our nation was still at war, I was caught off guard when she asked what our family was doing differently because of the war.

My husband and I are properly outraged by our government's international actions and have voted accordingly, on both a nation and local level. We have attended various protests and vigils, donated goods and money to veterans organizations. But that seemed pretty insufficient when compared to the sacrifices of the family in the film.

We live extravagantly within a global context but simply when compared to lots of our friends and neighbors. I stress to my children how fortunate we are at every turn. Constantly striving not to allow a proper respect for their material things to turn to reverence.

But I'm stumped to come up with a concrete, daily thing that we do (or don't do) as a part of a war effort.

I better pay closer attention to Michelle and get started on a victory garden.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Louis CK

This is a month old but Louis CK is timeless.

I'm probably the only one, but I miss Luckie Louie.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Home Birth & Pop Culture

New York magazine profiles home birth midwife Cara Muhlhahn. She first gained widespread notice after appearing in Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born.

I'm really glad that the film has been successful in broadening the conversation about home birth. The information available is much more plentiful than when I planned my first home birth 7 years ago.

The tone of article is basically impartial. But my hackles are always raised, so I sensed an undercurrent of derision. Renegade midwives vs sensible obstetricians is a familiar but stale dichotomy.

The midwife in the piece comes off as very dismissive of c-sections and the hospital birthing experience across the board. I don't know if that is the product of editing or not, but my lay midwife has a great deal of respect for both. When they are warranted or if they are simply a better fit for the parents to be.

When I did my initial research in home birth I was really inspired by the Dutch health care model. With genuine choices and support for mothers wherever they began their labors and wherever they ended up actually giving birth. When feminists talk about choice and progressives at large talk about reforming health care this is a part of the platform I'd most like to see implemented.

The trouble with marrying Mr. Burns

How long before this marriage turns into this one?

On the witness stand, the husband of the divorcing pair was asked if he ever told his wife a married woman shouldn't be seen in public after 5 p.m. without her husband.

That's why I robbed the cradle, those kinds of questions come with the territory when you marry Mr. Burns.


Family Feud



Because Mary Poppins isn't flying in to entertain my children while I veg out, we've taken to watching the Game Show Network. The kiddos are quiet and I get to relive my elementary school love of Press Your Luck.

As a result my 4 year old, hereby christened Thelonious (he's named after a famous musician, but not this one. or this one.) adores Family Feud. The other night he was particularly vocal while rooting for a family. When asked why, he replied, "Because they're black like you mommy!"

After telling him that he could root for whomever he wanted (though he wouldn't be the first blue-eyed black solidarist), I reminded him that he was half black . After examining his arm, he wanted to know where. Having been thru this talk before, my 6 year old, always happy for a chance to school baby bro, launched into a black, white, just right speech. It ended with a declaration that no matter what we look like, we'll always be half of Mommy!

My children have two grandparents of European descent. My paternal grandfather has 3. The son of a biracial mother and a white father, at 79 he has never considered himself anything but black. He once told me he consciously cultivated a speech pattern so that there was never any doubt to the world at large who he was. In the 1970s, he manipulated his fine hair into an afro with the help of rubber bands and hairspray. And to ensure that his bloodline had some melanin he married my chocolate colored grandmother.

The story of his parentage has slowly leaked down the family tree, like sap, sweet and sticky. Estrangements, abandonments, misunderstandings and loves that curdled into hatred, my grandfather's story has them all.

Now near the end of their lives, my grandparents freely discuss events that were once whispered. I'm the closest thing to a family historian that my clan has, so I mourn the tales of documents carelessly burned, personal objects set out for the trash, photographs left behind in a move.

But I meticulously hoard what's been left behind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Books of The Week

I'm still reading The Bishop's Daughter but finished Sandra Kring's Thank You for All Things. I wasn't able to find out if she's related to the creator of the TV show Heroes... I'll ask Jim, whose internet sleuthing skills are much better than mine. The plot includes alcoholism, mental illness, and domestic abuse but it's never maudlin or heavy handed. Snappy dialogue saves a multitude of sins so I would definitely read Kring again.

Kiddie Lit this week includes an obscure (to me) Dr. Seuss as Theo LeSeig and Whoopi Goldberg's The Sugar Plum Ballerinas. I'm staunchly against celeb written children's books, but who could resist ballerinas in three shades of brown on the cover? However I'm still holding fast against the english roses!

And after three weeks of tepid interest, my daughter gave up on Ramona Quimby. She's my daughter thru and thru, so she reads cereal boxes, warrantees, anything she can get her eyes on. I remember enjoying Ramona at her age but I didn't have that wacky Junie B. Jones as an
option. Mirette loves the Little House Series but Ramona isn't antiquated enough to qualify as interesting.

I'm not crazy about the butchered words but my daughter is such a stickler for grammar (even when she's the one in the wrong, told you she's mine!) reading Junie B. gives her a reason to be sanctimonious. And Junie B.'s rude or irreverent personality (depending on which side of the parenting aisle you sit) is the antithesis to my daughter's natural demeanor.

So this week she's happily reading about the toothless wonder. At this point if I'm not a bigger influence in her life than a book, then we've got problems.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Latifa Lyles

Saying that there is a lot of debate about the relevancy of the old line feminist organizations is an understatement.

Putting those very substantial concerns aside, I'm thrilled that Latifa Lyles is a candidate for the NOW presidency.

I put myself on a NOW mailing list (as well as Women Against Pornography, but I quickly came to my senses on that front) almost 23 years ago. And I can't imagine how inspired my pre teen self would have been by Latifa Lyles.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Boys Don't do Arts and Crafts

Let's amend that to "kids who hate pink" don't do crafts.

At least that's the impression I got while trying to come up with a gender neutral project for my daughter's birthday party last week. Model projects weren't going to cut it, because of the time and expense involved.

I'm all thumbs (and was pressed for time) so I was willing to pay for a fun, age appropriate craft set that came complete with instructions. There were plenty to choose from but they were all stereotypically feminine, light colors, lots of frill. And while I would gladly offer a child of either sex a chance to decorate a wood cut-out of a ballerina, I want to give both girls and boys some choice in the matter.

I finally settled on little foam baskets. Pastel in color, but the candy I put in them would make any kid happy. Dentists and parents are another story.

Ironically, the male party guests had some of the most intricately detailed baskets. And because the school environment doesn't enforce gender stereotypes (and presumably neither do their homes) they were fine with the choice of pink, purple or turqoiuse.

I'm not sure if my son's party will include a craft but at least I know I need to scour stores well before the big day.

Give me that old time religion

or not.

Could there be more black atheists and agnostics than Republicans? Color me surprised.

I have lots to say on the topic but need to think about what I want to divulge. Even with name changes and vague details, feelings could still be hurt...

Serious as A Heart Attack

Studies like this one underline how grateful I am for my extended family's good health.


Tennis Talk

Yesterday the NY Daily News introduced me to tennis player Sara Gronert.

She was born with both male and female genitalia but had the male parts removed and is now legally a woman. End of story in my opinion.

The "half a man" bullshit is so lame. It was reprehensible when Martina Hingis lobbed it at Amelie Mauresmo a decade ago. Granted Mauresmo is a lesbian not a transgendered woman.

I can't begin to imagine the many obstacles that transgendered folks face on a daily basis, in circumstances far more harsh than the world of pro tennis.

I wish Sara Gronert continued success on tour.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The White House Vegetable Garden

Sounds like a great idea. I'm usually prescient enough to know how the right wing lunatics will spin a story but I'm stumped if they tackle this one.

Michelle Obama's line that her mom will probably say "The garden is lovely. You missed a spot" (in reference to weeds) cracked me up.

It could have come from the lips of my Grandmother who's only a few years older than Marian Robinson. My Gram is nothing if not well informed so she abandoned hogmaws, chitlins and pig feet long ago. In their place, whole wheat products, lean meats and tons of vegetables. But she wants no part of growing her own. She picked cotton (albeit for a very short time as she'll jokingly admit)as a girl and has no desire to cut out the middle man between her and her produce.

ETA My husband thinks the right wing lunatic angle could be organic = elitist. Or that the Obamas are trying to ruin the already extinct family farm.

Expectant Athletes

I'm an avid tennis fan and though my devotion to Roger Federer knows some bounds (I'm sure life in Dubai is fantastic for him but the little I know about the human rights situation in that country scares me) I'm still irrationally happy that he and his longtime partner are having a baby.

This column by Kevin Blackistone compares the general reception of that news to WNBA star Candace Parker's pregnancy announcement.

I've always liked Blackistone, though I gave up watching ESPN's awful Around the Horn awhile back. Thanks for letting your feminist flag fly Kevin!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Greenbrier vs The Grove Park Inn

We haven't been on a romantic vacation in quite a while.

We have been fortunate enough to have gotten some time alone. But staying home in our cluttered domicile with it's thread bare sheets and unreliable electronics doesn't qualify as "getting away from it all".

So for the past 5 years I've told Jim I don't want anything for our anniversary. Instead I want a decadently lavish weekend at The Grove Park Inn to celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss. It's not very far from our old stomping grounds in NC and a relatively short car ride from our present location.

News that the famed Greenbrier Resort is bankrupt and being bought by The Marriott corp, means we might have a change in plans. The Greenbrier seems antiquated, pretentious and overpriced. In other words right up my alley! We actually have rewards points from a lifetime ago, when our Marriott stays were frequent. So maybe Jim won't have to commit a bank heist to finance our 10th anniversary after all.

Sports Talk

With the exception of the Mets, I have no deep love for NY sports teams. So when I moved to Dixie, I happily joined my husband in rooting for my new hometown teams.

Goodness knows it hasn't always been easy. But our football team had a unexpectedly great season and our basketball team has a real chance in the playoffs.

I'll hold on to our sporting harmony because once baseball season starts it doesn't last. Jim is disgusted with baseball in general (he doesn't give a fuck about steroids, he's got salary cap & team parity issues) so hopefully it won't be too ugly this year as he and our daughter root for their team and my son and I sing the Meet the Mets.

How Progressive Are You?

I took this quiz and scored 316.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mirette & Me

For the sake of brevity, I'm black, my husband is white and we're both American. My extended family, like many who endured hundreds of years enslaved in America, come in a wide variety of hues. I'm a medium complected sister but wasn't shocked that my children turned out "imitation of life " light in the words of a fellow black mom to bi racial kids.

After a recent reading of Uncle Jed's Barbershop we revisited the concept of segregation. I explained yet again what my maternal grandparents life was like in SC. She's alive and well, so the kids are always enthralled about GGMa's childhood under Jim Crow. I explained to my daughter, hereby christened Mirette (after her love of this book) that the lovely school she attends would be off limits to her. Which isn't entirely true, the school is based upon principles of racial and social equality, but I took a liberty while making a broader point. Par for the course with my parenting.

Mirette looked incredulous and informed me that she didn't look any different than any of her white classmates. Phenotypes aside, I told her that under the laws of the time, my being her mother would exclude her from enrollment. She loves her some kindergarten, (cried on a snow day for goodness sakes) so the idea of choosing between me and her beloved institution of learning visibly pained her.

I thought about Imitation of Life. I thought about the actress Merle Oberon living a life of lies, rumored to have passed her Ceylonese mom off as her domestic. I thought about all of us proudly pushing our strollers, only to be asked if we're the nanny.

Then I think about how fortunate I am. That we live in a time and place that allows Mirette to love my hair which "grows up and out like a rock star", as much as she loves her own chesnut colored Shirley Temple curls. How proud she is that she tans like Mom (don't worry, we still use sunblock) How indignant she is on the rare occasion when anyone questions who we are to each other.

I have no idea what our past life would have looked like but I'm pleased with our present.

HBO

HBO is making me really happy this month.

Big Love has been great. Will Ferrell's farewell as Bush as funny as you'd expect.

But I'm absolutely crazy about East Bound & Down. The writing is wonderful as is the casting. They've hit the nail on the head with every role. From the lead to minor supporting characters. Katy Mixon deserves all sorts of accolades, her North Carolina middle school teacher is authentic thru and thru.

I'm a big fan of David Gordon Green (finally the stoner brigade have returned some of their netflix Pineapple Express dvds, so that the rest of us can see it!) and am really looking forward to his take on Suspiria.

Remakes are rarely worth watching but how fantastic would Freaky Friday be with Craig Robinson and Bobb'e J. Thompson?

Enslaved vs Slave

A month ago my daughter and I went to an American Girl Doll event at a children's boostore, the site of her real looong birthday party. It was a great presentation. In honor of Black History Month, Evelyn Coleman, author of the the latest Addy tale, talked about the book as well as her personal and professional life.

Despite my general reservations about American Girl dolls as a hobby, I'm so glad we went. Ms. Coleman was warm, funny and informative. And she made a point of referring to Addy as an enslaved girl rather than a slave. Two little letters that make all the difference.

This article touches on the reasoning behind using enslaved.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What constitutes Too Much Information?

I know this blog promises house hunting and it's definitely been lacking in that regard.

My realtor called this morning. She is both sweet and competent and I haven't spoken to her since right before I miscarried. I hadn't told her I was pregnant and now I'm debating whether I should tell her about the loss. I don't want her to think we're re-thinking the move, but I also want to take a couple of weeks before we go out again. I could make up a reason, but I'm generally a straight shooter ( I hate that term) and sound awful telling even the slightest white lie.

She's our second realtor. The first sold us our current home, over 6 years ago. And because I'm as loyal as Lassie, I went back to her when we started looking for a multi family last year.

That search was very straightforward. At the time she had one child, she's now pregnant with her fourth and life is obviously more hectic. The first time around she made reference to places that might be "too urban", which made me antsy but I was pregnant at the time and she was basically nice so we completed the sale.

2002 was not a big election year. Fast forward to 2008 and realtor number one is eager to discuss politics with me. Uh Oh. She's a republican, lukewarm about McSame, but she's just so afraid as a small business owner what will happen if Obama is elected!!! I'm not exaggerating she was that impassioned.

Uh Oh turns to Oh Shit! I know nothing about the exact nature of her wealth, clueless about what her husband does but the idea that her nascent (coincidentally launched the week before we reconnected) real estate business (prior to that she's been working for one of the big companies) was going to be looted and redistributed was more conversation than I had bargained for.

But I went ahead with her because there was a particular half completed building, on a good street in the city proper, that seemed promising. "Instant equity" is one of those phrases that is highly subjective. I found a contractor and made plans to meet everyone at the building. The realtor sent a niece in her stead. The niece has a real estate license but is fresh out the oven. 22 maybe 23 years old, been in the big city 6 months top. I hadn't brought the land survey for the property, neither had she. The contractor had several questions I couldn't answer. And guess what, neither could she.

The building was a mess, hardly 90% complete and at $699,000 too pricey to begin with. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to complete it. But I met the contractor with no genuine real estate guidance present. I understand that commuting from the outer suburbs to the city proper isn't always easy but our potential purchase, combined with the sale of our house seems like something you might want to make the trip for.

I started looking for a new realtor the next day. So technically we didn't part company because she was a Republican but it definitely didn't help matters.

The new realtor, who shares a real name with the old realtor (as well as my birthday party nemesis) will be called Real Estate Amy to differentiate her from Good Amy, who was my first blog poster here!

She's great and does not overshare. She could have voted for Mike Huckabee for all I know. I'm going to call her, I'm just not sure exactly what I'm going to say.

Role Models

Watched and enjoyed the movie Role Models last night.

I'm always delighted to see Bobb'e J. Thompson. He stole the show as the youngest son on Tracy Morgan's sitcom a few years back. He's got charisma by the ton and in a just world he'd have a Disney series. On second thought, I'm not sure I should wish that fate on any talented child actor. His wikipedia entry says he's the youngest of 9 children which dovetails nicely with my Quiverfull post below!

And Paul Rudd gets better looking every year. I hate to join the ranks of the mommy brigade but I do wish he would have gotten naked for reals in that Vanity Fair spread.

Elizabeth Banks is a pretty, generic and inoffensive blonde. But her hair in the movie was so awful that it was distracting me. I constantly complain that teachers, waitresses etc in pictures wear $600 dresses with $400 haircuts, but this was a case that could have used some Hollywood excess. I hope she got a better stylist for Zack and Miri make a porno.

Quiverfull

When I got pregnant for the first time, I started exploring home birth as a serious option. My mother had unmedicated births so I grew up thinking that was the way to go. After lots of research and corresponding with people both in person and online, I decided to give birth at home with a midwife in attendance.

That's when I first encountered the Quiverfull movement.

Salon.com has an interview with a woman who is "no longer quivering".

I have never met any of the Quiverfull women I'm acquainted with in person. I only hope that their lives bear no resemblance to that of Vyckie Garrison or her friend Laura.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home Birth & Pop Culture

Whenever I see pop culture home births I think of Butterfly McQueen. The idea that an enslaved woman in the American south could be thrown into complete and utter hysteria over an impending birth is more preposterous than funny, but that's Hollywood.

I'm behind in my viewership of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. I haven't checked the ratings but won't be surprised if it gets cancelled. Anyway the episode "The Gray Hour" begins with Echo as a midwife. It was a quick but inoffensive segment. Since tv often portrays home births in a negative light, this was a positive spin, relatively speaking. Btw I missed 20/20's orgasmic birth show a couple of months back but am familiar with the key players as these birthing circles are nothing if not small.

The birth opened the show and the setting was picturesque. I'd have to watch again but I think there were snow covered mountains beyond the sliding glass doors! And best of all the baby was "big" for just a splash of of drama, but both mother and child were fine. No near death episode. No gorgeous doctors forced to halt their fucking to save the day.

I also appreciated the symmetry of ending the episode with Echo emerged in water, floating along, "wiped" again. Literal and obvious yes but I'm a sucker for Whedon.

Books of The Week

I'm reading The Bishop's Daughter by Honor Moore. I read an excerpt of it in The New Yorker (I think) It's a memoir of both her life and her father's a civil rights campaigning bishop who also struggled with his sexuality.

Kids lit this week includes the ever present Star Wars books. Much to my son's delight we're meeting Ahsoka Tano. Instead of Junie B. Jones I persuaded my daughter to give Ruby Lu Brave and True a try. It seemed interesting and will broaden our horizons a bit, the kids have never read a book with a Chinese American protagonist.

And I checked out Walter the Farting Dog and the yard sale but I just don't like it. My son (and daughter despite her generally prudish self) enjoy potty based humor as much as any 4 or 6 year old. But the bubble I've built is so sound my son didn't know what the word farting meant. I say "passing gas" and so do they. I've got a foul mouth and a relaxed sense of humor (my husband might disagree but he could create his own blog to do so) but for whatever reason I read thru the book and I was really turned off at the prospect of saying fart 2x per page.

Iyanla Vanzant

The Root catches up with Iyanla Vanzant wherein she discusses various personal and financial struggles that have plagued her over the years.

I thought the plague was Oprah's doing but she's not addressed in the article. I never followed her story closely enough to know why she and O parted company. But if she had signed a television deal with O and not Baba Walters she could be living life like Dr. Phil right now. Instead of being uninsured while raising two teen aged grandchildren. But mega bucks don't equate happiness after all, and sometimes they lead to awful cosmetic decisions i.e. Robin McGraw's grill.

Iyanla was my first bona fide verification that Oprah Winfrey, Negro Woman from the South, was a pop cultural force to be reckoned with. Oprah had always been popular amongst the adult black women I knew (and because I was a teenager when she came on the air, my mother didn't send me out the room when controversial topics came up, as she had during Donahue's heyday) Her show was wildly successful by any measure. But it wasn't until a white college friend of mine from a tony suburb in Westchester told me she had Iyanla's books, did I realize Ms. Winfrey was a genuine star maker.

I'm not one for self help books of any kind but after reading of her trials and tribulations, I wish Iyanla all the best.

Be Careful What you Twitter

The party went well. The weather was awful, my son didn't have a miraculous recovery but I know the birthday girl had a good time. I think the guests enjoyed themselves as well. Unfortunately I stumbled across a twitter post that let me know in no uncertain terms that one of her classmate's parents did not.

My daughter goes to a "progressive" private school that is anchored by devoted teachers, populated by an economically and culturally diverse student body and supported by many active parents. It has been an excellent fit for our family.

I'm not well acquainted with any of the other parents, but I'm genuinely looking forward to getting to know most of them as our children grow. And there are a couple that I'm happy to keep on not knowing.

So imagine my surprise when one of the "not my cup of tea" moms turned helpful during the second half of the two hour party. I'm all thumbs at any kind of craft and had expected my handy husband to construct the cheap little foam baskets I got as an activity. He was dealing with our sick son, and I was really grateful that "Amy" (not her name, but it's perfectly interchangeable with her real one) figured it out. She went on to offer to help with the pizza and passed out the forks for the cake.

I was surprised b/c in the past it has seemed painful for her to talk to me. But bolstered by her unexpected friendliness, I went to check out her blog and etsy shop. She has sent both addresses as part of her correspondences as "Room Parent". I found out she's an artist, of negligible talent, but feeling benevolent, I clicked away. Maybe I'd find something for my MIL for Mother's Day, supporting a local artisan and a fellow PTA member. A perfect liberal mommy moment!

Her blog lists her twitter feeds. Which included "Just got back from a really looong kids birthday party. ugh" I don't think two hours qualifies as long but it's the ugh that got me.

I didn't go into parenthood thinking that children's birthday parties were supposed to be entertaining for me. And sure, I keep this blog but I'm not advertising it in missives to my child's class.

So as not to sully the authentic sentiment in my daughter's thank you note to Amy's daughter, I've decided to include an extra notecard of my own. Thanking her for figuring out those pain in the ass foam baskets. And more importantly for enduring the really looong children's party I
threw. ugh

American Girls Abroad

Incredibly sad story about a Peace Corps worker who was killed in the African country of Benin last week. They have a suspect and the woman's parents don't believe the murder was political or random. Opening the possibility that the victim knew her assailant. I came to this conclusion because I spent a summer relentlessly viewing CBS's shitty show Cold Case. In tandem with 48 Hours. Which devoted a program to a Peace Corps murder many years ago committed by a fellow volunteer (Snapped was the triumvirate in my crime tv phase) Justice was not swift in that case. I hope that Kate Puzey's murderer is caught quickly and punished to the full extent of the law.

My travels abroad were not remotely altruistic in nature. And a week long vacation at a Tunisian resort isn't comparable to teaching English in sub saharan Africa. But this young women's death made me reflect on my life as a student in Europe.

Late night strolls thru majestic piazzas smoking hash with strangers. Precariously perched on bar stools across the continent, guzzling drinks of unknown origin. I used to joke that my fellow Americans were a ATM /mattress combo but fortunately we all made it home alive. Though the less fortunate came home having to finish a course of antibiotics.

My young daughter is already fascinated by Paris. More than a decade away, I'm preparing myself to see her off to some shabby apartment in which she'll have her very own American girl abroad adventures.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beyonce & Vogue

Beyonce's Vogue cover isn't moving me one way or the other.

Ambivalence pretty much sums up my feelings toward her. I hum the horrible but catchy songs, generally hate her fashion choices, respect that she undershares about her personal life, and think that she's an awful actress.

But what an embarrassment of riches Wintour has thrown our way. All of these "curvy" black women on the cover of late, it's enough to get Vogue confused with Essence. Which I haven't picked up in a decade b/c of the brevity and in some cases stupidity of the articles.

I know that there was an uproar in the black community over supposed skin lightening in Beyonce's L'Oreal spots a while back. Her skin looks great on the cover and her extensions are a subdued color and pulled into a simple pony. And her dress looks like it fits, no time to check but I would be shocked if it came from her mother's atelier. I haven't examined it from every angle yet (I'm trying to work miracles on my sick son before his sister's 12 pm birthday party) but I guess I'm liking it more than not.

The Cough

My kids are freakishly healthy. I'd like to think it's due to homebirthing, breastfeeding and delayed vaccinations but it's probably a combination of genetics, common sense and luck. We live a pretty low key life here in the poster city for suburban sprawl, I learned long ago that I love being out and about but really don't like most people all that much. So activities consist of my little brood packing up and hitting various attractions and events solo.

But birthdays are best shared so today we did go ahead and plan a party at a local children's bookstore. Our social calendar is nothing if not flexible, there are probably 4 x a year when one of the kids falling sick fucks things up.

And yes today would be the day that my 4 year old sounds like an emphysema patient. We've got the same cough, the register is deep and rumbling and makes people on subways and elevators instantaneously lean as far away as possible. And for good measure he's got a fever. Not so high and under normal circumstances not a problem. I'm all for the body naturally burning it's impurities but desperate times call for desperate measures. So I'm wiping off the layer of dust on the cough medicine. A three year old bottle that I have no expectations will do shit in the 4 hours before the party.

So instead of dazzling my daughter's classmates parents with the fun party I put together, they'll think I'm a negligent parent whose goody bag gift to their offspring is t.b. My daughter is my 6 year old so things could be worse I suppose and she could be the sick one.

But there is light on the health horizon. After 16 days of bleeding, one day of hemorrhaging, an ER visit to an understaffed, over crowded city hospital, my miscarriage is finally over!

Let's have a party!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ayelet Waldman

I find Ayelet Waldman incredibly interesting and can't believe that I've never read her mystery novels. My library card is the only card in my wallet I can swipe w/o potential embarrassment, so I'm going to rectify my ignorance of the "mommy track mysteries" pronto.

A couple of years back Waldman was being roasted by the Oprah crowd for an essay that championed putting your relationship with your husband first, relegating your children to important but tangential satellites.

At that time my life was a lot different, I could sign pieces of paper in exchange for goods, punch a key pad and money would come out of a slot in a wall. I still imagined that one day I *might* publish something and that my dearly beloved *definitely* would. It was just a matter of time before we took our place amongst a literary set in a small but progressive community. My daydreams didn't include a Pulitzer for either of us, but I did think our future included a checking account (To flesh the picture out I should add that my in laws are incredibly generous, so we are not living the bleak paycheck to paycheck existence that some of the details of our circumstance would suggest)

I still thought that I would complete the half finished but oh so funny (to me) colorful (literally) Sex and The City meets Bridget Jones manuscript. It's now covered in cat piss & hair, and more importantly I'm sure even *I* would find it antiquated, if I had the courage to read it. The last name of the tabloid magazine editor who I had a few sexless dates with (rare enough in that regard to be memorable) 10 years ago, (my lone publishing world contact) long forgotten.

Watching that Oprah I felt a genuine affinity for Waldman and have tried to keep up with her writings ever since.

I was happy to learn her latest "Bad Mother" will be out in May.

And I'll read it. Even if I won't know the host of the book signing when she comes to Asheville, Charlottesville or whatever Fantasyville I imagined myself living in by now.

Spacing

I'm consumed by the idea that the baby I've yet to conceive will be so much younger than my older two that it will feel eternally left out of the sibling circle. Mind you my two siblings and I are the spacing I was aiming for, and we are more like jagged points than a harmonious round, but that was the goal none the less.

Whenever I hear or read of a three+ child family I automatically seek out the birthdates (when possible) and do the math (which given my skill set takes an embarassingly long time) How old was the mom when the first was born? The fourth? Cate Blanchett's oldest is about 7 years younger than her baby, so is Natasha McElhone's. I wonder how that's working for them, as if having children similarly aged makes us potentially kindred spirits.

My not so secret solution to this problem is to have a fourth. We have no financial business having a third but 4 is such a nice number. Two sets of two, optimally another boy girl pair, disgustingly symmetrical. The big kids looking after the little ones, the family dynamics perfectly balanced.

I'll be 35 by the time our anniversary comes along in July. It'll be 4 months since I miscarried which seems to be sensible spacing to try again. The previous three attempts took in one fell swoop. If all goes well I'll tell the kids in October, I couldn't bear to put them thru another pregnancy loss.

I have no idea how I would survive another...

Gimme Shelter

Have I mentioned how much I'm loving the library? I've come full circle since it was my favorite place as a child... Our current financial state means that I can still frequent indie book stores but can't bring anything home with me.

I read an excerpt of Mary Elizabeth Williams' book Gimme Shelter at salon.com. Intrigued I was hooked on the book by it's opening pages. She's stalking a house, how much closer to my heart could she get? Of course I envy her proximity to her real estate obsession, I have to drive (or more accurately be driven, 9 years in one of the most sprawling metropolises in the US and I'm still license-less) some 30 minutes to reach the sea green house. My journey is a trek, replacing over the river and thru the woods with over the addicts and thru the immigrants seeking work.

I enjoyed the book but I named my daughter after the protagonist in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so anything about the borough of kings isn't going to have to try hard to win me over. Of course Brooklyn as a whole is vastly different than the place I left 9 years ago. Even the neighborhood that I grew up (in closer to Queens than the bridge, perennial contender as the murder capital of NY) has seen improvements. Bushwick and SoBo (out of the NYC loop, I've only read that moniker, how I would love for someone to say it to me with a straight face!) have seen some shift in their demographics, but I'm still waiting for word that the "urban pioneers" have landed in ENY. And white people who are Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons definitely do not count.

After an exhaustive search that including births and parental estrangement, the author ends up purchasing a place in Inwood, a Manhattan nabe that is the last stop on the subway. Nosey me, I was mostly curious as to the state of her marriage. Another salon.com piece detailed the breakdown of the relationship. She and her husband were essentially too broke to divorce. Or more accurately couldn't afford to maintain two separate households. Maybe that full story will be told in a subsequent book. Goodness knows that this economic climate has tales galore of people forced into continued cohabitation.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hospital

After much hemming and hawing I decided to go to the ER. I went b/c I was concerned about the future of my reproductive health. I became convinced that I had an ectopic pregnancy, which was not the case thankfully. We're woefully underinsured so I dread the arrival of the bill but my sanity was in jeopardy if I hadn't gotten a medical opinion not derived from WedMd.

The hospital experience itself was surreal. I sent Jim and the kids home after 90 minutes. I was reminded of both my father and brother's chosen career in law enforcement as I observed the police presence in labor and delivery. I live in a carefully constructed bubble, my children attend a progressive private school where everyone is valued and the teachers and staff go by their first names. Mothers who curse, fathers who slap and children who accept this as normal are not a part of my daily routine.

I started this several days ago with a lot more to say on the subject but I'll just end it by noting that my body is fine and my spirit is healing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gray Day

Fits my mood to a T.

Spent the morning watching a video of a local presentation by Andres Duany. I know a little bit about new urbanism but had never heard him speak. He was incredibly captivating. He made the point that drastic times call for drastic measures, it will be interesting to see what this international emblem for sprawl will eventually become.

My MIL is headed out of town to help my SIL with her impending arrival. So my daughter's birthday celebration with her will be taking place today. My intention was to attend but I'm exhausted and while Jim is of help, very little has changed in my daily routine. And it's not a taxing routine by any measure but it's been hard to keep up with none the less. And the idea of going out to lunch coming home and dealing with them for another couple of hours while he takes his standard afternoon sojourn is more than I can handle right now. The silence will be much appreciated.