Thursday, May 29, 2003

Here's another news article

Referencing Women and IT the lack of female participation reasons for this.

Reading the previous post it has me thinking that perhaps it is relevant to realize that wanting things for your children also means influencing society to see your point of view..

An FCC Tale: The End of the Reading Rainbow

It's not only about newspapers and talking head rant. The FCC's runaway train toward the further consolidation of the American media goes beyond rams its way straight into the hearts and minds of America's children...


When I was a young mother, I made some unspoken promises to my kid. I vowed she'd be raised strong and independent. I promised to do all I could to help her develop critical thinking skills. I made a pledge to bring up a compassionate and curious child.

The way I planned to mold my kid into the person I hoped she'd be was by showering her with simple but healthy experiences and by filling her life with good stuff, like art, literature and music. As backdrop to this plan, I convinced her skeptical father that color played an important role in a child's development and then shipped him off to paint her room in primary hues. Next, I loaded her shelves with books and tunes, and brought in gender-neutral toys like fire trucks and balls, crayons and paints. Finally, I officially banned Barbie from the household. This being my eighth month of pregnancy, the kid wasn't even born yet. I was set to parentally rock and roll...

I'm still no expert, and I've made my share of mistakes. But I've learned a thing or two about raising kids in these last sixteen years. You give it your all and you hope for the best, but bringing up a child in these modern times is frankly, something of a crapshoot. Sometimes, things just don't turn out as we plan...

Case in point...

barbie text.gifMy daughter was three when The Barbie Doll invaded our home. It was during an innocuous enough birthday party and it happened so fast, that it's become a blurry memory. I do recall that the wrapping paper was off in a matter of seconds and next thing I knew, my kid's life was turned upside down by the ubiquitous Mattel-motif: hearts, flowers, lace and even a bubblegum pink plastic doll-sized convertible. Those gender-neutral playthings suddenly held no interest and our kid had finally discovered the truth: she was a girl child being raised in Toys-R-Us America. Unfortunately, that was seen as a very cool concept - one she quickly embraced. I had no alternative but to bring in the heavy equipment. I began pushing the books. Bigtime.

"Alright, this is the deal," I said in similar words on very many occasions, "If you behave yourself, I'll take you to the library this morning. You can take out ALL the books you want. And...if you're EXTRA GOOD, I'll even let you watch Reading Rainbow. But listen here, Missy...that means no decorating the walls with that address stamper or tormenting the cat. Got it?"

Alright, it was parental propaganda. I'll admit it. I was messing with my kid's head - hoping she'd crave the books I'd elevated to toy status. I couldn't help myself. But having lost the Barbie Wars, I wasn't about to surrender the rest. As it turns out, I didn't have to.

reader.gifReading Rainbow is celebrating its 20th consecutive season in children's programming. After all these years, this amazing and award-winning show is still hosted by the engaging actor, LeVar Burton. At each episode, Burton introduces a nation of 6-8 year olds (and younger, if Mom parks them in front of the tube) to some of the finest in children's literature. Each episode involves an author (or an actor, filling in) reading his/her work, and in addition to dramatic recitations, these lucky kids are treated to a quality production - one that brings them inside these books and onto those exquisitely illustrated pages.

My daughter, and later her little brother, were captivated by Reading Rainbow. Their library wish-list was developed in part by exposure to the program. After awhile, Barbie hit the road and Anne of Green Gables and Treasure Island moved in. Today, my kids - like millions of other Reading Rainbow alum - are both voracious readers and critical thinkers. And I'm not exaggerating when I say millions. We're talking multitudinous millions of American kids who learned to love reading, thanks to this innovative program. Well, according to the Associated Press' David Bauder, those fun and vitally important lessons may soon be coming to an end.

In his piece, Reading Rainbow: Fighting for Survival, Bauder explains why this exemplar of excellence in children's broadcasting is facing a bleak future...

"Reading Rainbow" has several strikes against it in the battle for funding. For starters, it has no access to merchandise licensing deals, an increasingly important part of PBS' funding scheme for children's shows. There are no "Reading Rainbow" action figures to sell, no "Reading Rainbow" jammies to keep kids warm at night.

The series is also 20 years old when many corporate benefactors prefer being involved with something new. And the show's narrow audience — children 6 to 8 who are just learning to read — doesn't give sponsors the broad exposure they're seeking, said Amy Jordan, senior researcher on children and the media at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Other programs, like "Clifford the Big Red Dog," have book series attached to them. But "Reading Rainbow" is the only one that introduces children to a wide range of literature, Jordan said.

"What `Reading Rainbow' saw, before anybody else saw it, is that you can use this medium of television to get kids excited about reading," she said.

bux.gifReading Rainbow is proof positive that quality programming is possible in our TV-Wasteland America. But the Big Media players - the ones who make mega bux off of their free use of the public's airwaves - don't feel they're raking in quite enough dough off of Reading Rainbow. It boils down to their not being able to sell all the peripheral junk - the lucrative stuff they move so easily with the more commercialized programs.

In a fair world, LeVar Burton would not have to go begging for pennies, and programs like Reading Rainbow would be part of Big Media's debt to the American people. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the licensing body that oversees the public's airwaves would be enforcing the rules that call for broadcasters to air a modicum of programming in the public interest, and money would be made available for the LeVar Burtons of the world. If we were truly concerned about fairness, American kids would have a healthy selection of quality fare to choose from on the commercial networks. Why doesn't the FCC do its job?

Instead, on Monday, June 2, the Federal Communications Commission, under the leadership of its chairman, the corporately buttock-kissing Michael Powell, is planning to dismantle media rules and put more power into the hands of those who know how to make cash, but haven't a clue how to honor their obligation to America and its children. It's time we put the brakes on this runaway FCC/Corporate train. It's time we made both parties keep their promise to American kids.

Click here and let True Majority help you contact the FCC and your legislators. Remind them that Big Media has reneged on their promises to the children, as well as the adults of this country. Tell them that they owe US...we don't owe them. Tell the FCC to vote NO on plans to hand over more power to Big Media. This instant activism won't take but a moment of your time, and if nothing else, it will show the corporate players that Americans will simply not sit back silently, anymore.

Oh, yeah...and P.S. - if you know anybody with deep pockets and a mind toward philathrophy, put them in touch with LeVar Burton. He's got this guaranteed way to launch the littlest of American kids onto the joyous path of lifetime reading.

cross-posted at RuminateThis

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Dear damali,

I read about your site, on MSNBC and was so amused and intrigued that I had to pay a visit. I commend what you are doing, and I hope it helps to open more then a few eyes to Western culture’s objectification of people.

I also am an artist, though not a conceptual one, and I also operate on the fringe because I am a white American convert to Islam. As a practicing Muslim I wear a scarf, face veil and over garment. Therefore, I am very frequently stopped by people in order to be asked a wide variety of questions and receive comments:

“Is it hot under all those clothes?”
“Do you have to wear that?”
“What do you believe in?”
“Do you wear that when you take a shower?”
“How can your child bond with you if she can’t see your face?”
“What do you think of Sadam?”
“Can I see your hair?”
“#!^%& Terrorist!”
“Go home!”

For the entire post visit here

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Trying to get some blog buzz for African genocide

We bloggers can sometimes nudge the conscience of mainstream media, and Gary Farber (Amygdala) is hoping we can get some coverage for brutal tribal killings going on in Africa. Check out what he has to say, and see if you can do something to help save the families and villages in danger, okay?

Monday, May 26, 2003

Idea for a community service

You know how sometimes you have perfectly good magazines and paperback books you'd like to donate to emergency room waiting rooms and hospital library carts, but you never seem to have time to get them there, especially when it's the middle of a Phoenix summer or Minnesota winter and you're always driving with kids whom you can't leave in the car in those conditions, so the magazines and paperback books either stack up in your house and drive you crazy or slide around in your car and drive you crazy until you throw them out?

Well, some person or organization should start a "pick up magazines and books for waiting rooms and hospital carts" charitable service. They could even set up regular routes for donors who regularly buy or subscribe to magazines that they don't keep.

Cross-posted from The Bunny Blog

In Memory

On this Memorial Day, I remember my Croney grandmothers, who in this photo from the 1940s are about the same age I am now. Read the whole post here.

Friday, May 23, 2003

An experience in time travel

Today after school I took my daughter to the mall. She wanted to go to Hot Topic for some plastic bracelets.

Over the years I've gone shopping with my nieces and daughter and the experience reminded me of my high school shopping days. The experience reminded me is the operative phrase here. Not the actual stores.

Today was an altogether different story. The store had racks of biker/bondage bracelets and belts. Those always tend to be around in one form or another. Then there were racks of shirts held together by safety pins. You know, like kids used to wear but we used to rip our own shirts apart and pin them with our own safety pins. And then on the wall were posters of The Clash and The Ramones and Sid Visc.... what are they doing here? And why are they NEW? And what's that playing on the stereo? A remake of that Aerosmith song, the one about "sleeping late and smokin' tea!" OH, NO! It's a time warp! No! It's the actual Time Warp! On the stereo! Aaaauuuugggghhhh....

No, wait! It's all right. It's just a partial time warp. There's a Nirvana poster on the wall. Not that it's exactly current, but it seems new to ME, because whereas I didn't see The Clash Before They Were Famous because my parents wouldn't let me go to a seedy dive downtown, I didn't see Nirvana Before They Were Famous because I was too busy with my husband and baby.

But truly, the only major difference between Hot Topic today and a similar store in 1978 is that in 1978 a store like Hot Topic would never, ever, ever have been allowed in a mall.

P.S. While Hot Topic was channeling the age of punk, the men's department at Norstrom's was on its own nostalgia trip to 1984. You know, I thought I would be glad to walk into any store and see nice, bright colors for a change, rather than the sea of ugly-patterned neutrals in which we've been swimming, but after trying to imagine my husband in a bright loud multicolored plaid shirt, I realized that we've already Done That, and while we had a great time, I don't think I want to Do That again.

Although I do miss the turned-up collars.

Cross posted from The Bunny Blog

Feminists Are Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't

Bean and Jeanne (Kewl. I rhymed. LOL) raised their eyebrows over these comments within an otherwise excellent editorial by Nicholas Kristof about obstetric fistulas

I don't understand why most feminist organizations in the West have never shown interest in these women either. ... perhaps the issue doesn't galvanize women's groups because fistulas relate to a traditional child-bearing role.

LanguageHat took Bean to task in the Alas, A Blog comments section. LH wrote:

Jesus Christ. Here a columnist takes time out from his busy schedule (he could be blathering about Iraq like everybody else) to write about a horrifying and almost unknown (here) condition afflicting only women, in so powerful a way that I (for one) after reading it went immediately to the website and sent them money -- and he gets bashed for saying feminists haven't been paying enough attention to it! At least bean says "it's admirable that he would take the time to write about it" before going on to slander him ("One has to wonder if the author is deliberately manipulating the facts..."); the commenters just leap right in and start bashing (MDtoMN, are you under the impression that Kristof is a conservative? Or is anyone who doesn't follow the whole party line a "conservative"?).

LH continued: "Sorry, but "working to prevent not only this particular tragedy, but similar tragedies -- not to mention the causes of this and similar tragedies" doesn't cut it; Kristof isn't saying feminists don't talk about root causes, he's saying they don't talk about *this particular condition* -- and not that no feminist has ever mentioned it (you can probably find a reference somewhere in a yellowing issue of MS), but that "most feminist organizations in the West have never shown interest in these women."

To Kristof and LanguageHat, I say.... whaaa...???

The Feminist Majority has brought attention to both obstetric fistulas and Bush's pending cut in funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) -- a cut meant to please right-wing anti-abortion zealots.

Here's part of a response I made to Alas's comment's section:

UNFPA Seeks to Fight Fistula in Africa

Bush Makes UNFPA Funding Cut Official

Urge Bush To Restore UNFPA Funding

To heist LanguageHat's phrasing, it could just as easily be argued that the Feminist Majority "took time out from its busy schedule (rather than blathering about golf like the media pundits who choose golf to define what they think is wrong with feminist activism) ... to write about a horrifying and almost unknown (here) condition afflicting only women."

That portion in Kristof's editorial (which otherwise was excellent) reminds me of the misrepresentations made by the media and the right-wing in claiming that feminists had shown no interest in the plight of women in Afghanistan, when the truth was that the Feminist Majority had done more than any other organization to bring attention to that issue. In the same vein, feminist groups such as Feminist Majority have been criticized for supposedly paying too much attention to female genital mutilation, all the while supposedly ignoring what women need in the U.S.

Geez, we feminists can't please anybody. :)

This post appears on my blog. It is followed by Part II.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

The Bipolar Packyderm

I have just finished a few weeks of getting my father through his latest and most serious bout with depression and alcoholism. I have been quite numb. Last night, as I tried to get my youngest to sleep, I wondered how I could get back into blogging when humor seemed so far away, so irrelevant. Then I imagined an elephant sitting on me, making me unable to write. The image translated into this:

An elephant sat on my sense of humor.
With thighs full of stress, he said things were a mess
As I felt my lungs pressed out of air.

An elephant sat on my sense of humor
His ears twitched with dread and his trunk slapped his head
And he sighed and he sighed and he sighed.

I thought when he left I could giggle again.
Pick up where I was right before
But my insides were squished and oh how I wished
That he'd sat on my ego instead.

I realized that if I can sound a little like Shel Silverstein, then I am not dead yet.

sort of cross posted at Berlin Blog

The Queen!

I adore the Queen and I just can’t help it.
Perhaps this is due to the excellence of the Royal vocal cords. They produce a sound so pure that even phrases such as ‘Annus Horribulus’, that would sound smutty uttered by anyone else, issue from the Royal mouth untainted. Or, perhaps I hold Elizabeth Regina in such lofty esteem because I mistook her for a relative for the first six years of my life. I thought Aunt Liz to be the most lovely scion of my family tree and kept a picture of her in a cream straw hat set with beige trim. I knew no-one calm enough to team cream with beige and I was rather smitten with her restraint.
Why do I really adore Her Most Excellent Majesty? I have been affording the matter of my affection thought on the eve of her birthday weekend. First, it must be said, she has effortlessly done many odd things. These include introducing an original, if unpopular, breed of dog known as the Dorgi. (N.B. The Dorgi’s origins were possibly unplanned and unfortunate. Although there are eight known Dorgis in the world, the breed was reportedly started when one of ER’s corgis had its way with a dachshund named Pipkin that belonged to Princess Margaret). Further, she has owned a bull elephant named Jumbo AND she is a trained mechanic who worked on heavy machinery during World War II. What a gal.
Perhaps it is Liz’s shopping refinement that causes me to love her so. As a shallow person, I am easily impressed by those who acquire and, moreover, know how to acquire Lovely Things. And HM knows, perhaps better than any living being, how and where to shop. There are those satisfied many who join the queues at hypermarkets with 500 grams of beef in basket. Then there’s Liz who has, somehow, known all her life that if Spag Bol is on the menu, the ONLY place to acquire the requisite premium hamburger is Cobb of Knightsbridge. Similarly, she knows where to go to get the best spectacles ( Dispensing Opticians Dollond & Aitchison), stationery (Frank Smythson) and Bagpipes (Hardie R G & Co, naturally).
Naturally, Maj knows where to purchase a quality handbag. And perhaps at last the good craftspeople of Launer S & Co (London) Ltd begin to provide a clue as to the Great Lady’s appeal. Please, allow One to explain.
According to Buck House press guff, the most frequently asked question of Her Majesty by her subjects is: What DO You Keep In Your Handbag? The official answer always is: HM, who leaves all money matters to the Privy Purse, carries only spectacles for reading her speeches in the ever-present bag.
A lie! The Queen is a woman. Ipso facto she has crap in her handbag. Her consistent denial of female clutter underscores the mystery essential to her role.
Always present at the monarch’s elbow is this reminder that she is Woman enough to need a bag full of used bandaids, kleenex and lipsticks past their best-before date. Yet she is Monarch enough never to divulge these contents.
I most admire the lady who has had the same mints in her purse since her silver jubilee but has never publicly chewed on one. A woman who can refrain from fiddling about in her handbag for that long has earned the title Defender of the Faith and a place in my heart. I am down with the Maj.

Catholic Heartbreak

The Roman Catholic Church giveth, then taketh away. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was all set to honor religious-education coordinator Kathy Itzin -- until these workers of God found out that she is a lesbian.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The Matrix: Reloaded

Did you already watch the movie? I come from Germany, and the movie starts on Thursday over here, but I got the chance to watch it already today.

I see the opinions on this movie vary a lot. There are many who really like it and many who really dislike it. I'm afraid I belong to the group who just dislike the movie. I found the first part of the trilogy THE MATRIX boring already, but the second part was even worse, in my opinion. I can't imagine to watch part three at the end of this year also. But since I'm a fan of movies I guess I will have to force it on me? ;)

I think the reason why I find the movie boring is the sterile way of creation of it. Everything is planned, every move is planned. The fight scenes seem to be choreographed like dances, there is no space left for surprises and improvision. That bores me. No emotions, nothing.

If you'd like to read about the story you can go this way: ABOUT.
To watch the trailer for the movie, links can be found here: TRAILER.

Anyone read about nothing?

I keep a journal-- two actually, a personal one and one for business-- that are very useful and satisfying to me, but I never thought would be of interest to anyone else. (Typical non-editorial entries: "Exercise: Skated for forty minutes." "Household: Changed air cleaner filters.") When I have thoughts I'd like to share with the world I usually don't have the time or energy to post them to my largely-abandoned public blog. Now I'm hearing about very popular blogs that don't contain any great thoughts. There's one in particular from a man in England who just reports what he's doing in real time. Example given by news soundbite: "I'm drumming my fingers on the desk." I wish I had his URL, but I didnt' catch that part.

Anyway, I regularly read the blogs of Blog Sister members and other a few other people, and they are full of interesting and insightful information and opinions. Does anyone regularly read blogs that are mostly reports about daily happenings with the occasional editorial note? I need to reinvent my blog, but I'm not sure into WHAT.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Painting the pain

In late August, 2001 I wanted to paint so much my fingers ached with longing for a paintbrush. So, I dug out my pre-motherhood paints, put small openings in the corners of a large stretched canvas so that it could be hung, and then primed it with gesso. I taped newspapers to my bedroom wall with masking tape to protect my townhouse’s dead white paint, hung my primed canvas up and started to work. I painted the Dome of the Rock, the famous mosque in Jerusalem, it’s celestial golden dome rising like a burning sun over Jerusalem, above the blue and white tiled walls that support it. In the background I painted angry flames and billowing thick smoke filling and choking the surrounding air of the canvas. In the foreground I sketched an Israeli soldier, face shield drawn tightly down, gun trained on the mosque, in an attitude of watchful, suspended waiting.

It was difficult for me to paint, though, with a 10-month-old baby and two older children. It was hard to find the time when I could have enough mental space to think about art and put those ideas down in paint. It was harder logistically to keep children out of bright acrylics and wet canvas, even in my tiny bedroom studio. My artistic dilemma was solved for me when those planes were flown into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a grassy Pennsylvania field.

All of a sudden I couldn’t paint only about the conflict in Palestine. Although the Intifada in Palestine still distressed me, the issue was much larger now, more menacing, more deadly. The problem wasn’t only a land issue, a struggle for independence in an environment of repression, but was more evident as a worldwide sickness. It now was a global conflict of religion and oppression, which has spread like the most malignant cancer, and the cure is far from being found. No easy surgery or chemical treatment will remedy the discrimination, bigotry, terror, anger, and hate that multiplies so freely in all areas and cultures.

My painting stopped there – at September 11th, suspended on my bedroom walls, framed by newspapers dated August 27th, 2001. The thin strips of masking tape that hold up these yellowing papers are brittle and dry and have begun to fall away off the wall in desolate arcs. Every morning I look wistfully at this abandoned painting, my heart seized by sadness, my hands paralyzed with shock. I want to finish this painting – but I cannot – yet. My mind lurches toward this suspended piece with Parkinsonian steps – haltingly, haltingly, with only terrible slowness, unable to reach this visual idea again.

My Jerusalem painting was begun in an easier time, a more innocent time to be a Muslim. The world only had some conflicts then. In hindsight it seems that bombs weren’t always going off everywhere, that more lives were being lived, that wars weren’t being waged every year. True, there were terrible problems and conflicts, but there were none of the cataclysmic shudders that have been shaking the world with rhythmic, regular spasms of horror.

I haven’t digested all the carnage yet. It’s as if I am frozen in late August, 2001 – unwilling to think forward and accept this changed world, these new horrors, these bombs. I haven’t been able to process all these fast new facts, fresh images of suffering, of torn flesh, of broken buildings and broken bodies.

I cannot distill this terror from everywhere.

Crossposted at A Portrait of the Artist as a Muslim Woman

Friday, May 16, 2003

Now I know why I don't wear much jewelry

Because, to put it simply, shopping for jewelry is a more frustrating hell than trying to find a bathing suit that doesn't make me feel like a trainee blue whale.

I spent two hours searching the mall for a pendant for my grandmother. I saw many things I liked, but most of them were too "funky" looking for my Granny, oddly twisted hearts and some lovely middle-eastern influenced scrollwork and tassled necklaces that my Mum would adore. Plain, simple, understated pendants involving yellow gold and perhaps some pelasant-coloured semi-precious stones? Nope. Not on your nelly. I waded through every department store, two jeweller's and one costume jewelry store where the clerk tried to convince me that my grandmother would just love to own a chunky silver chain with starfish hanging off it. There are very few ways to politely say "no thank you, that's much too gaudy for her" and "can we keep it under $150 please?" and I ran out of tact somewhere between Nordstrom's and Robinson's May.

Eventually I returned to Ben Bridge [>] and went with a little filligree heart in white gold, even though I know she wears yellow gold. It was the only thing that remotely said Granny to me. I was also encouraged by it being half the approximate amount my Mum told me to expect to pay.

Then I managed to pull out the wrong card to pay for it, and didn't realise until it had already been rung up, so I had to get her to viod the first transaction and start over. The second card took an inexplicably long time to clear, thus wasting an additional 15 minutes or so.

By this point I was ready for a nap, my eyes were aching from staring at so many sparkly things under bright lights, trying to search for the invisible understated pieces amongst the carbuncles, and I was well overdue for a boost to my blood sugar. I got straight on the freeway and headed home. Matt already had dinner ready, bless him.

I pulled out the package to show Matt what I'd wasted two hours looking for, opened the cardboard gift box, then the jewelery box...and proudly displayed to him an empty cream velvet interior.


That's right, I walked out of there with a gift box. But no pendant.

Cross posted at Painfully Fluffy [>] .

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Return of the Pig

I can't help but think that perhaps the glorification of chauvinism, violence, and sex is a backlash against the de facto political correctness that has permeated the public conscience. It is a no-win situation for feminists precisely because of political correctness. Being PC is one of the pillars of feminism. Neo-chauvinism hides behind this by saying that its very existence is multiculturalism and irony rolled into one. And feminists dare not attack it for fear of undermining their own pillar.

The core of the matter, though, is not chauvinism versus feminism but the clash of beliefs. How is one able to allow the existence of ideologies that are in direct opposition to one's own? The easy way out is to not care about what anyone else does--but that route, unfortunately, leads to anarchy. Attempting to instill everyone with respect for their fellow human being is going to be pointless if a particular group's ideology disregards respect for personal gain.

This is a difficult topic because it is easy to get trapped in circular reasoning. Humans are still animals no matter how "above it" we think we are. It is admirable that we have gotten this far, but even in the most altruistic, there is a small part that is completely instinctual and involved in self-pleasure.

Whatever the case, no one thinks the same way. People who like violent rap, laddie mags, and denigrating others have no right to call others who have different tastes elitists. The media may make it seem like this is mainstream, but exactly how many people want to attend rowdy parties 24/7? Probably no more than the segment of the population who even has a preference for classical music. Maxim connoisseurs are just as elite and obnoxious as beatnik poets.

Cross-posted at Syaffolee.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

When a rose is so much more than a rose.

Self-described “nerd” and Blog Sister Betsy Devine has fun with the rose and all its scientific glories. Her piece got me thinking about the rich mythic history of that ancient pentacled flower. And so I had my own kind of fun.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

A Mother's Day Letter

Dear Mummy,

Today is Mother's Day and I am sitting here many many leagues away from where you are, typing out this letter that you will never read because a) you don't know about this blog and b) you are terrified of anything to do with computers and the internet.

I'd just like to say--and tell my dear Readers--that despite the rockiness of our love-hate relationship which I still regard as both a blessing and a curse, I am grateful that you are my mother.

When I was growing up, no one else has:

1. Whooped my ass as hard as you have when I didn't achieve the targets you set for me.
2. Destroyed my self-confidence as deftly as you can do with one fell rebuke.
3. Made me quake in my shoes about every single mistake that I could possibly commit as your daughter
4. Imbued me with as many neurosis as you have with your way with stirring up guilty feelings and taking out your anger at your in-laws on me
5. Provoked me into reacting with rage, resignation and frustration all at the same time with one remark

Even today, as I approach my 26th birthday, you still have the power to achieve no. 2, 3, 4 and 5--no. 1 being physically impossible as we are on different continents--effortlessly over long-distance phonecalls.

And yet, you are also the only person in the world who:

1. Knows that I am ill even though we are so far apart and I haven't called to tell you that I've been feeling lousy just like when you turned around just in time to catch one-year-old me about to pull down a pan of boiling soup.
2. Knows all my basic neuroses, fears, insecurities and mental blocks and talks me through it
3. Keeps my ambitions and thirst to succeed going by reminding me of how important it is to prove to my father's hoity-toity family that I can be better than any of them
4. Quietly supports my feminist ideals and values because you yourself have been stuck in the role of housewife and mother which you resented over the years
5. Told me that I can be anything I want because I can, because I've inherited your style and because I can whoop any boy's ass if I put my mind to it
6. Sacrificed her working life in order to ensure that I had the opportunities to excel by pushing me to do my best not just in school, but in music, art and sport.

I want you to know that until today, I still shed invisible tears and carry an ache in my heart when I remember how you married Daddy to escape an alcoholic father, how Daddy's family mistreated you because you didn't come from a rich family, how you were disappointed by life so often that you worked (too) hard to overcompensate by trying to ensure that your children never disappointed you.

Even as I write this, there is a lump in my throat.

So I will always try to make you proud and to never disappoint you. I am a Rhodes scholar, a prize-winning poet, a novelist-in-waiting, an all-rounder arts person and a solid, well-grounded person because of you. Without you, I would never have come so far in life so fast, and that's the truth of it.

I know that sometimes you think that I am an ungrateful, unfilial brat and I think that you are the most impossible, incomprehensible, infuriating mother anyone could ever have but I love you regardless.

I love you regardless of the fact that you were part of the reason why I had a miserable childhood

I love you regardless of the fact that you sometimes pushed me way too hard.

I love you regardless of the fact that you will never understand why I do the things I sometimes do.

I love you regardless of the fact that you will always give me tough love rather than unconditional love.

Happy Mother's Day, Mummy. I hope that what I have become today has given you some peace of mind and some happiness that will always stay with you as you get older.

You deserve every bit of it.


Cross-posted at Mindscapes, Heartstrings and Soul-searching

A Mother's Day Rant

More meming with links to Riane Eisler and Elaine Morgan and quotes on why women need to act/up before age blindsides us.

Friday, May 09, 2003

The first Mother's Day was a call for peace.

From Sojourners website:

Did you know that Mother's Day was suggested as a day of peace in the United States by Julia Ward Howe who protested the carnage of war in her bold proclamation of 1870? Decades later in 1907, the first Mother's Day observance was held at a church service honoring the memory of Anna Reese Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia. Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, organized women during the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions and to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.

Mother's Day Proclamation
-- Julia Ward Howe, 1870

Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, disarm! The Sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The Baby Question

So, do you/are you/when are you having kids?

My way of deflecting this question is: "No, but we have cats. Wanna see pictures?"

As I reached my mid-30s I've found myself more and more out of step with people my age who are moving to the burbs and having families. As for me, I'm no more inclined to have children than I was 10 years ago. After much ruminating, I've realized that my real answer to "The Baby Question" may be "No, not now, and possibly not ever."

Most of the time I am able to believe that it's OK to feel that way. But there are a lot of societal messages that tell me that my answer is not, indeed, OK. (Do I need to make a list?) So sometimes I still question my own judgement.

As I get older, the stakes seem to get higher. They're apparently high for a lot of people, because the issue inevitably makes people on both sides of the fence feel defensive at best and hostile at worst. I wish it wasn't so divisive and that there were more ways to see comfortably across this particular fence. The author of this article takes rather a more generous view than is usually heard in this highly loaded discussion.

(crossposted at Bells and Whistles)

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

International No Diet Day

Today is International No Diet Day. The first INDD was in 1992 after Mary Evans Young saw a television show on which women were having their stomachs stapled. One woman had split the staples and was in for her third operation. And then there was a young girl of 15 who committed suicide because 'she couldn't cope with being fat.' She was size 12. Ms. Young got angry. She came up with the idea for INDD.
The stories that Ms Young heard are like bookends. There are the fat people trying to get thin at any cost and the not really fat people dieing because they are so afraid. On my blog today I write about fat lives and the negative impact of dieting. I don’t know as much about eating disorders. I do know young women (and increasingly young men) die from them.
I was at a hearing to create a task force on childhood obesity in San Francisco recently. I heard a therapist say that she had one client who was close to 500 pounds when she hospitalized but the client had all the signs of malnutrition because she’d been starving herself in an attempt to lose weight. And the therapist had another client who was hospitalized at under 100 pounds but she had been eating over 5000 calories a day. And then throwing it all it up.
INDD is not about going out and having pizza and a banana split. It’s about understanding the cost of fat-phobia. It’s about understanding that there’s a difference between having a healthy relationship with food and monitoring your appetite in a hyper-vigilant manner.
So I am wishing you all a healthy AND pleasurable day with your body and your appetite.

Child Terrorists

Has anyone read this little tidbit from the New York Times?

More Prisoners to Be Released From Guantánamo

WASHINGTON, May 5 — Bush administration officials said today that they would soon release an additional group of prisoners, about a dozen, from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba...

...Those to be released will probably include one or more of the three juveniles the military recently acknowledged were being held at Guantánamo. The three young men are believed to be 13 to 16 years old, and the disclosure by an Australian television network of their detention produced a barrage of criticism from human rights groups...

Big of those Bush administration officials, huh?

A Portrait of the Artist as a Muslim Woman

Friday, May 02, 2003

Further illumination on the demon thing.

I don't want to take up space here, but I've posted a poem that sort of wrote itself after doing some intuitive work with my shamanic therapist -- years, years ago, during my more (ahem) sexually active era. It's based on one of my "vision quests" and was published in an anthology called Which Lilith: Feminist Writers Recreate the World's First Woman, so it can't be all that bad. I share it to illustrate the benefits of dancing with my demons in the way that I do. Lilith is an archetype that loomed large in my therapeutic work, and if you're at all interested in why, you can read Frank Paynter's old interview with me.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Getting what I want...

So, last night I went out for coffee after work with some friends. Before I could go, though, I had to call up the hubs and make sure he was going to be up for dealing with the children for the extra hour or so before bedtime.

So, I made the call, and made the plans, and was all set to go. A client that I goof around with a lot came into the office and said "I overheard your conversation" (I talk really loud, so this was not odd at all) "And...So...I thought it was really nice that you called your husband to let him know you were going out." "yeah," I said, "I kind of need to, since he's watching the kids and all."

The client paused, got a sly look on his face, and continued, "Yeah, but I could totally tell you were going to go whether he liked it or not!"

GAH! This is exactly what Steven accuses me of ALL the FREAKING TIME. Like I only call to inform that I'm going to do whatever I damn well please, regardless of how he feels about it. Which, yeah, if it's not a big deal or no one is dying or whatever, is probably pretty accurate.

So, I ask it such a bad thing that I usually get what I want? Does it mean that I'm a brat because I get my way much of the time? Or does it just mean that I don't ask for something unless I know it's reasonable to expect it? What, exactly, is wrong with getting what I want?

Is an Exorcism in Order?

I posted this in a comment over on Elaine's place, but am posting here as well, in a post since I can't get the darn comments to work.

I take issue with what Elaine says about Laurie, Meegan and Chris, and the way with which she wields shamanism and deamons as some metaphorically exciting healing dance that is by no stretch of the imagination new age.

Here's my comment:

Elaine, in this one paragraph, you make several damning assumptions. I think you'd be well advise to re-read:

"When I read what webloggers at slumberland. and notsosimple and even rageboy write about their struggles to find a way to live lives that feel satisfying and connected as well as challenging and stimulating, I want to tell them that there are other ways – ways that make the journey of self-discovery a real adventuresome and creative trip. And you don’t need drugs to do it."

You're assuming a whole hell of a lot:

1) that their lives don't feel satisfying or connected.
2) that their lives don't feel stimulating
3) that they are on some sort of magnificent journey.
4) that their particular journeys thus far are neither adventurous or creative
5) that you know what an adventurous and creative trip is
6) that they are on drugs

I think the real issues there for you have something to do with their relative youth and popularity.

In addition, in this post you imply that most new agers believe in God or some sort of spirit source, and that you're not a new ager because you don't believe in God. Those attracted to the fanatical fringes of new ageism (I would argue that most of it is fanatical) aren't there looking for God. They are there looking for them "selves" so to speak because they never developed one in the first place. Not their fault. But a magnet for the disordered.

Like I always say:

The people on meds are on them because the people who should be aren't.

AND, of course,

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a narcissist.

Dancing with your demons.

Back during the old-time 70s feminist days, there was a lot being written about women and depression, women and repressed anger (depression being anger turned inward). Lots of us opted to let our anger out – at men, at the “establishment” etc. etc. It didn’t change anything much, and it didn’t help us to understand what we really wanted and how to get it.

Being a poet, I tended to have an outlet for my anger, and I was lucky to cross paths with another poet who also is a therapist who works in a shamanic tradition – which means that he truly understands the power of personal metaphor and myth – of creating art and artifacts that seem to “magically” dissolve the blinders that the rational, literal, logical mind uses to keep out dangerous awarenesses. Being a word-person, I could talk and write reams of reasonably intelligent analyses of what was bothering me, how my past experiences contributed to my current discomfort. I could -- and did -- read all kinds of books that purported to explain the causes of my dysfunctions. But blaming the past and analyzing the present only takes you so far toward ridding yourself of those old paralyzing demons. Knowing that you want to change things about your life and actually making the changes are two very different things.

At first glance, shamanic therapy smacks too much of new age nonsense. For some, like me, who don’t believe in any personal Great Spirit, it might seem too traditionally spiritual. But I approached the whole experience as ritual theater, as symbolic expression, as an end-run around my rational, controlling brain – and, when you come right down to it, as damned good psychology. You don’t have to believe in a god or a soul or an afterlife; you just have to acknowledge that there is some part of your consciousness, your understanding, that keeps eluding you. We dream without control at night and sometimes in our daydreams. Shamanic therapy takes us into our dreamtime, where the complex metaphors and symbols of our conscious lives hide waiting to take forms that hold truths too powerful or painful for our literal minds to willingly embrace.


Over tens of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors all over the world discovered how to maximize human abilities of mind and spirit for healing and problem-solving. The remarkable system of methods they developed is today known as "shamanism," a term that comes from a Siberian tribal word for its practitioners: "shaman" (pronounced SHAH-mahn). Shamans are a type of medicine man or woman especially distinguished by the use of journeys to hidden worlds otherwise mainly known through myth, dream, and near-death experiences.

One of the most enlightening experiences I had was taking a workshop with Eligio Stephen Gallegos, whose book Personal Totem Pole: Animal Imagery the Chakras and Psychotherapy explains the process. And that’s what we did – we went on guided imagery “vision quests” in search of our animal totems – visual metaphors for parts of ourselves that we needed to communicate with better. What my Osprey told me, what my miniature Dragon showed me, made more sense and gave me more sense of direction than hours of talk (or silence) in a traditional therapist’s office. So, when I blog about meeting a Skunk, it’s not just an attempt at cute story telling. There is something stirring in me that I need to pay attention to.

Expressive arts therapy works the same way, helping us to access our right brain smarts – the ones that are NOT linear and literal and rational, the ones that see right through those left-brain blinders.

When I read what webloggers at slumberland. and notsosimple and even rageboy write about their struggles to find a way to live lives that feel satisfying and connected as well as challenging and stimulating, I want to tell them that there are other ways – ways that make the journey of self-discovery [added after the fact for clarification] an even greater [delete 'a real'] adventuresome and creative trip. And you don’t [added after the fact for clarification] even need drugs to do it [added after the fact for clarifiction] the way that shamans use peyote other other psychedelic drugs to expand their consciousnesses so that they could take those enlightening inner journey trips.

But first you have to be willing to let your demons take form and meet you face to face in dreamtime. And, if you give them a chance, they'll even learn to dance with you.


Some other relevant info of interest on the web:

(double posted)

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...