Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Complaint-free Lent

I'm a little late out of the starting gates, since Lent started nearly a week ago, but better late than never.

Those of you who know me might not think of me as a complainer, but recently I've become aware that I complain (and gossip, defined as complaining about another person to someone else without saying it directly to that person) more than I should. In fact, in the past year it has hurt my career. I tend to have high standards and strong opinions, and sometimes I'm not good at keeping those to myself or expressing them in the most constructive way possible (directly to the person involved). This has been eye-opening for me, because I do not want to be a complainer. In fact, it annoys me when other people complain. Hello Marie--open your eyes!

So that's why I decided I would set out on this process during Lent. I found A Complaint-Free World by Will Bowen (the hyphen is mine), who is a minister in the Unity Church. He started the complaint-free movement in his church by giving away purple bracelets (shown on the cover, above) and developing a technique to reduce or eliminate complaining. The idea is that you wear the bracelet on one wrist, and when you complain, criticize, or gossip, you switch the bracelet to the other wrist. The goal is to try to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, criticizing, or gossipping out loud. (It doesn't count if it happens only in your head.) Bowen says that most people have to move their bracelet 15 to 20 times in the first few days, and soon it gets easier and easier. If you complain after 10 complaint-free days, you start all over again to aim for the 21 consecutive days.

Initially I was thinking I would try to not complain except about politics...but now I've decided I'm going to apply it to politics and religion as well. It doesn't mean that I won't occasionally post political or religious news on my blog, but I will try not to complain and let people draw their own conclusions. This might be the hardest part yet, in this current phase of political craziness.

But after all, isn't the whole purpose of this blog to point out that "every day is a miracle"? Instead of focusing on what is wrong, I will try to focus on what is right in both my world and the wider world.

Instead of ordering an official complaint-free purple silicone bracelet, I am wearing a prettier beaded purple bracelet that someone gave me (my sister? my mother? thank you, whoever you are!). So far I haven't had to move it, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Already, I'm feeling more upbeat and positive...we'll see how long it lasts when something really sucky happens. :)

Stay tuned for a report. Every day is a miracle!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

X Out Test Drive--in pursuit of clear skin!

Chris and I have been selected to test drive a new teen acne treatment product, X Out, made by Proactiv.

He is lucky to have pretty good skin for a 15-year-old boy, in spite of essentially no skin care regimen to speak of. Until recently, he had red patches on his cheeks, but these seem to have cleared up recently. He's looking forward to improving the overall condition of this skin by using this product. I'm looking forward to trying out a technique to make him more focused on washing his face.

X Out appeals to the tech-savvy, music- and culture-loving teen by featuring 2-minute videos that teenagers can watch while washing their face. As soon as I told Chris about this feature, he was excited to try it out.

Stay tuned for the progress report after he's been using the product for a few weeks (and washing his face every day!).

I wrote this review while participating in a test drive campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of X Out and received a X Out product sample to facilitate my review, one to giveaway, and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stephen Colbert posthumously baptizes (and circumsizes) Mormons

In response to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's extreme agitation over the Mormon church baptizing Anne Frank (over and over again!), Stephen Colbert decides to conduct his own baptism of Mormons--by circumsizing them symbolically and posthumously. What I want to know is this: if Jews are baptized in the Mormon faith, does this mean they get to go to heaven, although actively faithful Mormons can only get into the highest level of heaven if they go on a mission (male) or marry someone who has completed a mission (female).

Apparently not. According to this blog, "...Mormons believe that the spirits of the dead have the power to reject Jesus. So posthumous baptism does not conscript people into heaven. It merely offers them a chance to receive salvation, which they can reject if they wish." So they're still pretty much bound for hell, unless they posthumously become Mormons!

Attention, Downton Abbey fans!!! Take a look at these offscreen photos of your favorite actors...

If you love Downton Abbey as much as we do, this site is a must-see. They've paired photos of the Downton Abbey actors in costume with photos of them in their usual, modern-day looks. Delightful!

Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan)
 The most surprising to me are Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) and Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan), both of whom appear to be much younger and hipper than they are in Downton Abbey. Coyle is 48 and many have written that they found the love scene between Anna and Mr. Bates to be "gross" because he does not have a stereotypically sexy physique. As the blogger at adiosbarbie.com writes,
"What is gross about a man with an average body in a love scene? What about the scene “did [Coyle] no favors?” I think it is just that we aren’t used to seeing average, real bodies on screen. Everyone is super-toned from Pilates and personal trainers, spray-tanned, smooth and fitting the Western Eurocentric idea of perfect. But real, healthy human bodies are not hyper-muscular or perpetually tanned or porn-star smooth. That is true of women’s bodies and it is true of men’s bodies, too."

Well, to those naysayers, I say TAKE A LOOK!!!

He's a hunk. The shot with the baby is especially wonderful!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where are the women, Mr. Oscar?

Yet again, another Oscars approaches with an incredible dearth of women where it matters most.

Some amazing women are nominated as "best actress" and "best supporting actress," and some of their roles this year broke new ground, as feminist (and member of the academy) Marlo Thomas writes in The Huffington Post (although, oddly, most of the photos in the accompanying slide show are of men!).

It's time we take over the movies
from the men!!
In spite of a few good roles, however, women and people of color continue to be poorly represented in most of the movies nominated this year. According to a new USC Annenberg study that analyzed Best Picture Oscar contenders from 1977 to 2010, only 32.6 percent of speaking characters have been female, which comes out to 2.1 males to every one female. Only 14.3 percent of directors were female. In addition, 78 percent of speaking characters are white (11.6 were black and 1.9 Latino).

The men who make the movies always seem surprised when a female-dominated movie, such as "Bridesmaids," does well at the box office. Why are they so surprised? We want to see more than romances--we want to see real women on film!

In 84 years only four women directors have been nominated for Oscars--and only one has won. Check out this enlightening video of the films that missed getting nominated this year...there's a list below the video, in case you want to check them out (like I will do!). Let's support female writers and directors and demand better roles for women in the movies!

Pariah, written and directed by Dee Rees

We Need to Talk about Kevin, co-written and directed by Lynne Ramsay

Circumstance, written and directed by Maryam Keshavarz

Higher Ground, directed by Vera Farmiga

The Future, written and directed by Miranda July

I Will Follow, written and directed by Ava DuVernay

Meek's Cutoff, directed by Kelly Reichardt

In the Land of Blood and Honey, written and directed by Angelina Jolie

The Whistleblower, directed by Larysa Kondracki

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jon Stewart on the campaign promises Obama failed to achieve

I have not watched any of the 20 (OMG!) Republican debates, but I've seen highlights on the internet afterward. I honestly do not think I could bear to sit through one of those facades, especially with the audience booing gay soldiers and birth control, among other things.

I think the level of exaggeration and hyperbole has risen to a level higher than we've ever seen it...and the lies are flying. It's gotten so absurd that Mitt Romney is blaming Santorum for "Obamacare" because Santorum voted for Arlen Spector, and Santorum compares Romney to Michael Dukakis because he balanced the budget as governor. And Newt Gingrich claims that President Obama voted for "infanticide," which of course is an inflammatory lie. This is a piggyback on Santorum's and Sarah Palin's ridiculous claim that Obama said that "any child born prematurely, according to the president, in his own words, can be killed," and has been proved untrue multiple times.

Fortunately, we have the wonderful Jon Stewart to remind us of all the things Republicans predicted would happen if Obama were elected in 2008:

And what they say will happen if he's re-elected in 2012--suddenly he will be the son of the devil!

And closing comments about this wild, batshit crazy Republican primary by the wise journalist and political pundit EJ Dionne:
They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist. His especially creative opponents see him as having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview,” while the less adventurous say that he’s an elitist who spent too much time in Cambridge, Hyde Park and other excessively academic precincts.

Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.

Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies. A significant part of his opposition still cannot accept that Obama is a rather moderate politician quite conventional in his tastes and his interests. And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just one of the bummers of being a preemie parent...

Our little peanut
...is discovering, over the years as they do new research, that treatment and care my fragile, tiny baby received was not the best for him, and in fact might have harmed him.

This is beyond the usual, run-of-the-mill stuff all parents face about risks their babies faced:
No, in addition to all of that and the plentiful risks we already knew about as preemie parents (like babies who are born extremely prematurely have nearly double the chance of developing ADHD), we have to worry about:
  • BPA: Not only did we use BPA baby bottles for pumped breast milk, but we also froze the bottles and warmed them up in hot water, potentially allowing the dioxin to leach into the milk...because Chris was not able to nurse, we went through TONS of these bottles (provided by the NICU).
  • Steroids: Immediately after Chris was born, Mike was asked if he wanted him to participate in a study to determine whether steroids given after birth improve outcomes. Clueless, he asked the neonatologist for advice, and after he recommended it, Mike agreed to it. What did we know, any of us, at the time? A few years later they discovered that steroids given after birth can result in a decreased size of the cerebellum, and in fact, Chris does have an abnormal cerebellum. Who knows if it was the steroids? On the other hand, the steroids might have helped his incredibly immature, fragile lungs to develop, since I didn't have time to receive any steroids before he was born suddenly. 
  • Drug reactions and allergies: Chris almost DIED because of a near-fatal reaction to a drug called Captopril, which is used to lower blood pressure and is now known to result in nephrotoxicity in some premature babies. This drug caused an extreme dive in his blood pressure, resulting in damage to one of his kidneys and worse, cerebral edema and low flow to the brain. After we spent one day terrified that he had fatal brain damage before he miraculously turned the corner, he was lucky to survive with a damaged kidney.
  • Excruciating-to-watch (and I imagine
    traumatic-for-the-baby) eye exam early preemies
    have to endure every week to watch for ROP
  • Oxygen: Chris went home hooked up to an apnea monitor, large oxygen tank, and a laptop computer (not to mention multiple medications). We called him our high-tech baby. The laptop was for another study called Stop-ROP, which was trying to assess whether keeping oxygen levels higher for babies at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a serious preemie eye disease that can cause blindness, would decrease the chance of ROP acceleration. The study involved 649 infants at 30 centers over 5 years. Half of the babies, including Chris, received high supplemental oxygen (96 to 99% saturation) while the other half received conventional levels of oxygen (89 to 94%). What that meant was that we had to keep his oxygen saturation between 96 to 99% at all times--and this was tracked on a laptop. They found that supplemental oxygen did not reduce the progression of the disease, but it didn't make it worse. (Chris did have ROP, which is why he has had to wear glasses since he was 3; however, it stopped progressing before he needed to have surgery. ROP is why Stevie Wonder, a preemie, is blind.) However, the supplemental oxygen INCREASED the risk of pneumonia, worsened chronic lung disease, and the need for oxygen, diuretics, and hospitalization. After this discovery, they stopped the study.
  • Chris was on the drug Propulsid to treat his reflux...and a few years later, it was pulled from the shelves because several people (including premature babies) died after taking it.
And now 15 years later, they are saying that premature babies delivered by C-sections are 30 percent more likely to have trouble breathing. As you'll know if you've read the story of Christopher's birth, he was born via c-section, perhaps because of the prolapsed cord. My OB told me that if he were born vaginally, he would die, and if he were born by c-section, he'd have a 50% chance of survival. It's hard to say how she came up with those statistics. Now they know that C-section babies don't have fewer common complications of premature birth, such as brain bleeds or seizures. And they have a higher risk of respiratory distress syndrome, which tiny little Chris had in spades.

Our high-tech baby on the day he (finally)
left the NICU after 117 days
And therein lies one of the major stressors of being an NICU parent. You desperately want your baby to live and thrive, yet you have no clue what you are doing. All you can do is follow the medical advice you are given, and the NICU is a literal testing ground for new medicines and research, much of it helpful and life-saving, and some of it ultimately damaging. It's hard enough not to feel guilt as a preemie mom...these new developments do nothing to relieve the guilt.

As a preemie parent, you never stop wondering..."what would my child have been like if he (or she) had not been born prematurely?" I know we are one of the extremely lucky families, and I am certainly grateful to medical technology and the doctors, nurses, and other staff who saved Christopher's life and kept us afloat. But I wish the damn choices were easier and didn't have such potentially damaging effects.

Really? Not satisfied attacking grown women? Now you're picking on the girls?

Do these girls look like they are promoting "homosexual lifestyles"?
1. Indiana Republican attacks Girl Scouts:

Indiana Republican Representative Bob Morris says that Girl Scouts are "bent on communism, lesbianism, and destroying America":

After talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of Web-based research, and what I found is disturbing,” Morris wrote Saturday to Republican House colleagues. "...abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars. Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver last year warned parents that 'membership in the Girl Scouts could carry the danger of making their daughters more receptive to the pro-abortion agenda.'...The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obama’s [sic] are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization."

As the Girl Scouts pointed out, Morris failed to do adequate research...because since 1917, every first lady has served as the honorary leader, including Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. The Northern Indiana-Michiana chapter of the Girl Scouts has, in fact, no relationship with Planned Parenthood, and the national organization has no formal partnership with Planned Parenthood, but receives its support.

Read Michael Hayne's hilarious commentary, in which he says: "No group or organization is safe, apparently not even the Girl Scouts of America (not to be confused with the less popular Girl Scouts of al-Qaeda)....I will say that I am not a huge fan of their aborted-fetus flavored cookies, but I am quite partial to Lesbian Lemon Wafer."

I also love the fact that another Republican congressman, Brian Bosma, counteracted by mocking Morris’s comments handing out Thin Mints to other members. "“I purchased 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies in the last four hours,” he said.

Many Girl Scout chapters meet in churches
2. Catholic church in Virginia bans Girl Scouts

In another excellent example of certain Catholic leaders lying in bed with the Republican party, the pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Virginia has told several local Girl Scouts chapters that they are no longer welcome to meet in its church, because "the increasingly open nature of the Girl Scouts" is not "compatible with the mission of the church." The Girl Scouts have been in the bullseye of conservative Catholics and Christians for a few years. Just google "girl scouts Catholic church" or take a look at this opinion piece from 2010, Why I Will No Longer Support Girl Scouts, by a woman who was horrified that the flags of all nations were honored at a Girl Scout convention, girls are taught about climate change and female empowerment, and the role models in senior high school curriculum only include 3 "women of faith." (May I remind her that just because you are not a Catholic or telling everyone how to behave does not mean you are not a "woman of faith.")

Clearly, not all Catholic organizations are attacking or unwelcoming the Girl Scouts--in fact I found a website for the National Catholic Committee for Girl Scouts USA and Camp Fire USA.

I have to say I'm impressed with the way the local chapters chose to respond to St. Timothy's banning:
“We are committed to ensuring that Girl Scouting is available to all girls from St. Timothy’s Catholic School, in Chantilly, VA. This location change presents us with an opportunity to serve not only the girls from St. Timothy’s, but to invite more girls from the area to join Girl Scouts. After all, this is our 100th anniversary year and a great time to be part of Girl Scouting.”

We haven't bought Girl Scout cookies this year--I would prefer that they manufacture them without high-fructose corn syrup and ideally made gluten-free ones!--but now I really feel like I should buy some!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Protecting the separation of church and state is "against religion"?

I think the Republican candidates need to go back and read the First Amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
I find this incredibly ironic, given the painting many Republicans have been circulating on Facebook. The artist, Jon McNaughton, actually says that it's not meant to be a partisan painting--he believes that both Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of trampling on the "common man's" rights. In his view, President Obama is only the latest of all the presidents to govern poorly. He is appealing for a return to the Constitution and limited government. Sounds more like a Libertarian viewpoint than a Republican one.

Santorum has been repeatedly attacking President Obama for his grounding his policies in a "phony theology." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today that Obama's administration has "fought against religion" and sought to substitute a "secular" agenda for one grounded in faith.

Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, questions again publicly whether Obama is a Christian and supposes that he is probably a Muslim. "All I know is under Obama, President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries," he said. "Islam sees him as a son of Islam...Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama." He also questions whether Mitt Romney is a Christian because of his Mormon faith. Of course, he believes that Newt Gingrich is a Christian: "Newt's been married several times... but he could make a good candidate," Graham said. "I think Newt is a Christian. At least he told me he is."

So why doesn't he believe President Obama's own repeated statements that he is a Christian? "Now he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? For him, going to church means he's a Christian. For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior."

Insanity. The one who is advocating for the poor, the marginalized, and the downtrodden is the one whose Christianity is being called into question. This is what Christianity means to me. (Lyrics below the video.)

The Rebel Jesus - Jackson Browne (1997)

All the streets are filled with laughter and light

And the music of the season

And the merchants' windows are all bright

With the faces of the children

And the families hurrying to their homes

As the sky darkens and freezes

Will be gathering around the hearths and tales

Giving thanks of God's graces

And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the "Prince Of Peace"

And they call him by "The Saviour"

And they pray to him upon the sea

And in every bold endeavor

As they fill his churches with their pride and gold

And their faith in him increases

But they've turned the nature that I worship in

From a temple to a robber's den

In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns

And we guard our fine possessions

And once a year when Christmas comes

We give to our relations

And perhaps we give a little to the poor

If the generosity should seize us

But if any one of us should interfere

In the business of why they are poor

They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed

To take the tone of judgement

For I've no wish to come between

This day and your enjoyment

In this life of hardship and of earthly toil

We have need for anything that frees us

So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer

From a heathen and a pagan

On the side of the rebel Jesus

Grown-up preemie who survived Grade 4 brain bleed

For you NICU parents out there, you know what I'm talking about. If you are not an NICU parent, this is what that means:
A Grade 4 brain bleed is layperson speak for a "Grade IV intraventricular hemorrhage," bleeding into the brain's ventricular system. It's very common in premature babies. Most brain bleeds occur in the first 72 hours after birth, and the use of oxygen (critical for extremely premature babies' survival) increases the risk. Brain bleeds come in four levels. Grades 1 and 2 are the most common, and often result in no major complications. Grades 3 and 4 are the most serious and can result in long-term brain injury (blood clots forming, blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid and increasing fluid in the brain) or death.
I vividly remember the nurses and doctors repeatedly telling us how lucky we were that our own 24-weeker, Chris, did not have a brain bleed. They considered it quite the miracle, since he was born at the edge of viability and had a much higher chance of having a brain bleed than older preemies.

Parents of preemies who have Grade 4 brain bleeds are not given much hope for their beloved babies' survival or "positive long-term income" (doctor speak). So when I read this story about a young woman who had a Grade 4 brain bleed and lived to tell the tale, it brought tears to my eyes...and I knew I had to pass on the story from the It's a Preemie Thing blog.

Shannon Harper, now 27, was born 3 months early weighing only 2 lb., 12 oz. and measuring 12 inches long. Because of her brain bleed, she has endured three shunts (to relieve pressure on her brain), 13 shunt revisions, mild cerebral palsy, heel cord surgery, years of physical therapy, and two "exploratory" head surgeries (a total of 18 surgeries).

She is now not only an NICU grad but also a college grad and works as an educational assistant, helping children who struggled with some of the same challenges she did.

I knew parents who faced the agonizing life-or-death decisions involved with Grade 4 brain bleeds. We faced that same decision ourselves when Chris (1 lb, 6 oz., and comparatively long compared to Shannon at 11 inches!) had cerebral edema and low flow to the brain...before he completely turned things around the next day. Parents just have to hope, when making those decisions, that their precious ones give them some kind of a sign that they are ready to go.

One of our favorite NICU docs used to say "Never trust a preemie." That has proven to be true. Some of the preemies who have the most horrific NICU stays imaginable (including Chris) have relatively unscathed childhoods and grow up to be healthy and independent like full-term kids...while others who have comparatively easy NICU courses face more challenges and developmental issues. I know other parents of preemie kids can relate that just when you think you are in the clear, something new pops up.

On those days when Chris couldn't keep a thing down and vomited everything he ate (bad reflux)...and I was worried he'd be labeled with the dreaded "failure to thrive," or when he didn't walk until 15 months adjusted (19 months actual age), or he didn't talk until he was three...I clung to every shred of hope I could find.

I love stories like these...that can offer hope to parents that in spite of the odds...and the depressing statistics...things can turn out okay in the end. You can just tell, looking at Shannon's smile, that she loves life and knows that she is a success story. Isn't that what we hope for our children?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The dystopian world of Rick Santorum

If Santorum were to win and have his way, the U.S. would have:
  • No publicly funded education for our children (he believes that local communities and parents should be in charge of education)
  • No prenatal testing covered for pregnancy (in fact, he'd want to ban it altogether)
  • No civil right protections for women, people of color, or LGBT people
  • No separation of church and state
  • Creationism taught in schools as fact
  • No birth control or abortion coverage (or any services available anywhere)
  • No environmental protection laws or penalties for polluting the environment
These are just a few of the things Santorum believes should be so. He has repeatedly criticized President Obama for not grounding his policies in the bible. "It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs," Santorum said. "It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology." Because the Bible says we should abandon the poor, forsake the planet, protect people's rights, and not provide education for all of our children? Oh yeah--I guess I forgot to read that part.

I'm with Bob Schieffer, who began his interview with Santorum on Sunday with, "What in the world were you talking about?"

I cannot believe he's now in the lead over Romney. I get the Tea Party sheep voting for him, but moderate Republicans must be choosing him too...or otherwise the majority of the Republican party has veered over to the far, far right. Do people voting for him really agree with all of the bullets above? Do they not seriously believe that he would fight tooth and nail to implement these stands?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bill Maher calls out conservatives for unprecedented attacks on Obama

Bill Maher, who is not particularly my favorite person, astutely notes that the incredible disrespect shown by Republicans toward President Obama is completely unprecedented. Never has a sitting president been so belittled, taunted, insulted, and disrespected, right to his face. What's the difference: yes, race. It's no different from the way that black people have been taking crap all these years and just putting up with it. In Obama's case, he doesn't have much of a choice or he'll be labeled an "angry black man."
But there is something about this president that makes conservatives think it’s okay to go ape shit in his presence. They didn’t do this Carter, an actual pacifist, or Clinton who really did have a plan for universal health care, or LBJ, who actually made it easier for poor people to vote and eat. All of them clearly, evil America haters, but they got treated with a modicum of respect, at least to their faces.

Not Obama. What can it be that’s different about him?

It’s either his race, or it’s your brain chemistry, or it’s something that happened when you dad spanked you and liked it, and you were looking at a box of Cream of Wheat. I don’t know. I’m not a therapist. Maybe, it’s not race? I don’t know what’s in people’s hearts. Except Newt Gingrich, I know what’s in his heart, lust and cheese fries.

But this type of in the room, in your face, in your space respect disrespect is new. Admit that, and I will admit that of course, something like impeaching Clinton was far more serious, but it was also at least in some ways more respectful. It was done with high pomp through official channels. It was all about the rule of law, and the Chief Justice wore a special robe he got from a musical, or something, and somehow that is a lot more respectful than this.

Not that if Obama ever did anything like Clinton did, he would even be alive. Can you imagine what they would do if they ever found out Obama had sex with a White House intern on Easter? Talk about colored eggs. He would have been impeached two times, one for each testicle. This president has had to be the Caesar’s wife of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jackie Robinson of American politics, never reacting to the taunts from the stands. But after you do this to try to get his goat, what’s next? A wedgie? A purple nurple?

Gov. Brewer said she did this because she felt threatened. Right, like Obama ran his finger down his blouse and said, ‘you my white princess.’
Show some respect, people!!

More Santorum craziness...

From Charles Blow in the New York Times:
  • “I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.” (said in Detroit, no less, with the highest poverty rate of all U.S. big cities!) He went on, “We should celebrate like we do in the small towns all across America — as you do here in Detroit. You celebrate success. You build statues and monuments. Buildings, you name after them. Why? Because in their greatness and innovation, yes, they created wealth, but they created wealth for everybody else. And that’s a good thing, not something to be condemned in America.”
  • Last week, he said that the president was arguing that Catholics would have to “hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues.”
  • "(Liberals and the president)...are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine.”

Blow also points out that charitable giving (living a Christian life, anyone?) is not high on the list of Santorum's priorities: "He has given the least amount to charity of the four presidential candidates who have disclosed their tax returns. (Ron Paul has not.) His charitable giving was just 1.8 percent of his adjusted gross income. The Obamas were the highest, giving 14.2 percent, even though their income was second lowest. Maybe that’s the imbalance we should praise."


And we all know how he feels about women...he's made that perfectly clear.






Santorum's hate for mainline protestants

In this 2008 speech at Ave Maria University, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks disdainfully about mainline protestants:
"We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. [...]

Whether its sensuality of vanity of the famous in America, they are peacocks on display and they have taken their poor behavior and made it fashionable. The corruption of culture, the corruption of manners, the corruption of decency is now on display whether it’s the NBA or whether it’s a rock concert or whether it’s on a movie set."
Peacocks on display. And he's trying to get votes? This man scares the crap out of me. People are actually voting for him?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rep. Issa's religious liberty circus

Idiot Issa
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing on religious liberty and the birth control rule on Thursday. The morning panel consisted of all men, all religious conservatives. All one viewpoint and all incredibly politically partisan.

Although democrats had requested that a third-year law school student testify on behalf of the president's policy, Issa refused to let her participate, claiming that she was not qualified or appropriate. The student, Sandra Fluke, has supported the administration's decision not to exempt religious employers from having to offer birth control to their employees through health insurance. She has a personal story to tell, too. When Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.) and other democratic delegates walked out of the hearing in protest, she encouraged Fluke to talk to reporters.
"Fluke began to cry as she told the story of her 32-year-old friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts and prescribed birth control pills as the only remedy for her condition that could save her from becoming infertile. Because her student insurance did not cover contraception, Fluke's friend could not afford her medication, and she eventually lost her ovary and began experiencing symptoms of early menopause. 'Those are the consequences of this policy, and those are the voices the chairman silenced today,' Fluke said." (Huffington Post)
All male religious panel
As Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) demanded to Issa before walking out, "What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?"

Are you incensed like I am? Make your opinions known by sending Issa an e-mail. This is the one I just sent:

You've got to be kidding me. Convening a hearing on "religious liberty and birth control" without including one single person to represent the "minority" position? You are supposed to be representing your constituency, at least 1/2 of which are women. The Guttmacher Institute has determined that 99 percent of American women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used birth control. Your "hearing" is completely biased and unfair to all Americans.

Birth control should not be discussed exclusively by MEN!!! Women are the ones who take primary responsibility for birth control and they certainly are the ones who have their lives changed if they have no access to affordable birth control and health care.

What century are you living in, exactly?

Is none of our food untainted?

Organic brown rice syrup has been found to contain dangerously high levels of arsenic.

That's right--those of us who are trying faithfully to avoid high-fructose corn syrup often choose products with brown rice syrup, especially energy bars. Clif bars are my favorite meal replacement, such as on Sunday mornings when we race out of the house without time for breakfast.

Environmental chemist Brian P. Jackson and his team found dangerous amounts of arsenic in brown rice syrup, which is used as an alternative sweetener in a variety of products. The research is published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Apparently rice (especially brown) picks up more of the arsenic in the ground than other grains. Organic natural forms of arsenic are found in the soil, while traces of arsenic-based pesticides (banned in 1999) can also still be found in the soil.

The worst of it is that this also applies to two brands of organic toddler formula made with brown rice syrup--these formulas had 20 to 30 times more arsenic than the other formulas. Given the small size of a toddler, that level of arsenic is dangerous. Ironically, this formula company's web site touts, "Following breast milk, parents can continue providing organic nutrition with Baby's Only Organic® Toddler Formula. Nature's One® scientifically designed the first organic formulas using ingredient standards that extend beyond 'organic,' insuring (sic) the highest quality nutritional formulas available." My #1 question is this: why in the heck are parents giving toddlers formula with sweetener in it, anyway? Why not cow milk, soy milk, or some other form of milk?

This news does not come completely out of the blue. In 2010, Consumer Reports found high levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, in protein powders and protein drinks. I hope you're reading this, Nadine and David! Scary. Is nothing safe?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Obama's forcing priests to hand out condoms during mass...

Or so says Stephen Colbert. I highly recommend watching Colbert's coverage of the "Contraception Crusade." It's hilarious and incredibly wise, as always.

And Jon Stewart addresses Christian conservatives' "religious persecution" and the "Holy Sausage Fest" held by Sean Hannity, an expert on birth control if I've even seen one.

And then he calls out Rick Santorum and Catholic church leaders in "The Vagina Ideologues"--Newt Gingrich claims that Obama will "wage war on the Catholic church" the day after his re-election. I look forward to that.

Jesus would NOT be interested in my uterus!

Four relevant anecdotes about birth control:

1. I remember Mike sharing his surprise when he was watching a TV show about overpopulation with his cradle Catholic dad...who made a comment to the effect of "that's what birth control is for!"

2. In 1990, Mike and I attended a Catholic "Engaged Encounter," at which a couple did a (PG-rated) presentation on "natural family planning" (NFP, otherwise known as the rhythm method) and said it was the only form of birth control for married couples and "the use of NFP raises the dignity of persons from mere toys for sexual pleasure to co-creators of human life." I'm guessing I was one of few non-Catholics there. Later on the issue of birth control came up again, and I stood up and stated the fact that the "NFP is not a reliable form of birth control." I think I shocked everyone, because no one responded. Yes, I was a young interloper and was probably forever banned from Catholic Engaged and Married Encounters (not like I would ever have gone back)!

3. In 1993, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a 21-page social statement (The Church and Human Sexuality: A Lutheran Perspective) on sexuality and invited churches to have dialogue. This was a radical notion for the Catholics in our Lutheran-Catholic community. I still remember Wynn, an older, very conservative Catholic (who must have been a spy...why else would she worship with such heretics?) making a comment about sexuality only being for procreation. Mike laughed out loud and proclaimed that it's too bad he and I couldn't have sex, since we were not ready to have children yet. According to the Catholic Engaged Encounter site, "the three reasons why people do not use NFP are 1. ignorance 2. lust and 3. fear," and "some unnatural forms of contraception actually cause early abortions." Oh, and "fornification is a mortal sin," but we knew that, didn't we?

4.When I was in my late 20s, a few female coworkers and I wrote a memo to our firm's benefits director (and copied the CEO), demanding that our medical coverage include birth control benefits. We solicited scads of other employees to join us in including their names. We were upset to learn that our benefits covered fertility treatment but not birth control. (Little did I know I would avail myself of the fertility treatment 10 years later.) Now many insurance plans cover Viagara, but not the pill or other forms of birth control.

Cue the Catholic/Conservative War on Women

Last weekend I found myself listening to a traditional Catholic who asked us what we thought about Obama and the birth control issue. She said she'd heard that Obama plans to force Catholic hospitals to offer abortions, too (from her very reliable source--a friend). (In fact, the conservative web sites are all touting this, claiming that the morning-after pill is abortion pure and simple.)

Sarah Palin will "fight to the death to stop birth control coverage." Newt Gingrich claims Obama has declared a "war against religion," very convenient for him as a newly minted Catholic. Rick Santorum believes that a president should preach about the sanctity of marriage (no birth control) and contraception is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." He abhors the "radical feminist pitch" that "men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace." This man scares the sh_t out of me.

As Nicholas Kristof writes, "The cost of birth control is one reason poor women are more than three times as likely to end up pregnant unintentionally as middle-class women." Yes, that's right--better access to birth control = fewer abortions. This has been proven! I think that one of the roots of this conservative Christian war on women is they do not want unmarried women having sex (because it's a mortal sin, don't you know?).

The Catholic bishops are out to lunch. Nearly every American woman has used some form of birth control, according to this informational Mother Jones article about Catholic women and birth control. They're so busy waging a war on women and reproductive rights that they can conveniently avoid the molesters and mutineers under their noses.

Percentage of American women
who have used birth control (Guttmacher Institute)
All I know is that Jesus would not care one bit about women's reproductive organs and how they choose to plan their families (or lack thereof). Jesus would not be spending all this time ranting and raving about birth control. He would be caring about the poor, feeding the hungry, and preaching justice.

I don't need birth control anymore, unless you count permanent sterilization, which my health insurance covered--just wait until they start on that!!! But I want the damn politicians to get their noses out of my uterus and start focusing on the true meaning of Jesus' life and prophecy...peace and justice for all.

Apologies for the punctuation error--grr!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cupid Kieran strikes again

Last night I posted a photo of the Valentine's letter Kieran left under Chris' door. Well, I got up to use the loo at 5:00 a.m. and freaked out a bit when I saw red in the toilet bowl. I didn't have my glasses or contacts on, so I couldn't really investigate. Then I saw two slips of paper outside of our door--valentines for me and Mike. Cupid Kieran not only added red food coloring to the toilets and delivered valentines, but he also sprinkled cut-out hearts on the stairs and around the house, and left a "craft" on the table.

When I quizzed him about it, he finally admitted that he had made all of these before he went to sleep, and then he got up at 2 a.m. to play Cupid.

My Valentine

The "craft"

Valentines for Mike and Nick
The little craftsman also made a sign to cheer on his friends at the Bookbaggers competition today...their team name is "Dumbledore's Army." He forgot it at home so Mike was planning to take it into school for him.
When I called Chris a Valentine's scrooge, he said he doesn't like V-Day for two reasons: (1) it sucks if you are single, and (2) shouldn't a boy treat a girl well every day, and not just on Valentine's Day? (I told him he'd make a good husband someday--that is, after he learns to cook!!) I added #3--it's a grossly overcommercialized holiday full of insane profits for chocolate companies and florists.

We gave each of the kids a homemade valentine this morning, and Chris moaned how pathetic it is to get a valentine from your parents instead of from a girl. I think I made him guilty enough (threatening to throw it away, etc.) so that he opened it up and read it...and then said thank you. Teenagers!

I need to appreciate those sweet 8-year-old Cupids as much as I can before they outgrow their sweetness!! :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Kieran wrote this letter for Chris (under the covers with a book light) while I was reading the boys a story. Then he slipped it under Chris' bedroom door.

Such a sweetheart! (Of course, the teenager didn't seem to appreciate it much, being anti-Valentine's Day...)

Bah humbug! ;)

Rest in peace, dear friend

I found out yesterday that a friend took her own life in January. Joene was not a close friend...she was someone I knew through church, but she left our church a few years ago and never returned. I knew she was depressed--she was having health and job problems. I reached out to her via e-mail and became her Facebook friend, but she did not respond to my efforts to connect. I know that any efforts on my part would not have prevented her from choosing the route she did, but I wish I could have let her know that I cared. I enjoyed making music with her while she was part of our community.

On the ark at Holden Village, 2007

Performing with "Consulting with Papists," 2008

Another "Consorting" performance

Singing and playing with the band
Joene was a librarian, spoke Spanish, and didn't have faith in her own voice until she started singing in the band. I remember how much she loved it, but even though I invited her to join us each time we got the band together again, I never heard from her. I'm sure that when you are depressed, being around happy people...and especially happy families...is especially hard.

I will miss you, my friend, and always remember your music and your smile.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Best of Whitney Houston

This is what she represents to me...it's just too bad that she didn't keep that love inside of her. "No matter what they take away, they can't take away my dignity..." She was 22 years old when she made this video--so beautiful!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sh*t Portlanders Say

So true...every word of it. Check it out.

Cuties of the day

I took this last Friday, when Kieran had the day off school. Because he's always moaning about Mike taking Nick to do fun things, I took him out to breakfast at Marco's. We had a delightful time, followed by a brief stroll through Multnomah Village. He especially spending some of his allowance at the candy store, Sweets Etc. Then we went to go pick up Nick from preschool, and this tree is outside of the building...apparently climbing the tree is a tried-and-true tradition upon pickup (in recent weeks).

Monday I got to help in Nick's class at preschool--so much fun! I got to oversee the "sink or float" game, when they hypothesized whether an object would sink or float in the water. It was a wet game! I laughed when one of the little girls in the class had to go to the bathroom and asked me to "put it on pause." Such a DVD generation we are raising!

Here is Nick with his best buddy Cameron, and my hand holding a pinecone. Wouldn't life be better if we all got to stay in preschool...life was so much simpler (and more fun!) then...

One million strong for women

All in the last week:
Fortunately, justice prevailed on the first two issues, but they have heightened attention on the fact that "women's issues" are polarizing our country.

A group of female senators have decided to take action against these attacks. They have formed a group, One Million Strong for Women, in support of women's rights. I suspect the "1 million" is also in response to the supposed "One Million Moms" (which in fact number around 40,000).

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), seven Democratic senators, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are hoping to harness the energy displayed in the backlash against Komen. "The strong public outcry in response to the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to defund Planned Parenthood last week--which they later reversed--shows how powerful we can be when we come together," says Kirsten Gillibrand. "Our right-wing opponents continue to launch attack after attack against women's rights, women's health, and women's economic security--and we've got to fight back every single day."

"The next battle over the Obama administration's decision to make contraception more affordable under the new health care law is already underway," it says, referring to a White House decision to require most employers to include birth control coverage in their insurance plans. "It's hard to believe that in the 21st century we have to fight for access to birth control, but that is the fact -- and there will be many more fights in the weeks ahead."

Other senators involved are Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Join the fight by adding your name!



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Girlfriend getaway

Last night I had the luxury of a women's getaway at my parents' beach house. My friend Shelia flew over from Boise, and we drove down to Rockaway yesterday morning. Two other friends joined us. The weather yesterday was simply SPECTACULAR.

Idahoan on the jetty

April soaking up the rays

Jen looking relaxed

Smile, girlfriends!

Perfect February day on the beach

Cool fort


It was so lovely on the beach that we decided to go back into the house to get our boxed wine (dubbed our MoTA Box!) and return to watch the sunset. When I called Mike to check in and told him what we were up to, he called it "Holden on the Beach," reminiscent of the Holden Village red wine drinking evenings with the same crew.

Holden on the beach

See, I really was there!
Then it was back into the house for dinner (spinach cheese crepes), chatting, and Valentine making! I love to do crafts with other people--much more fun!

We had enough craft supplies to make Valentines for a week!

April's many valentines (for her 3rd grade class)

Some of my creations

This morning April made yummy banana-walnut french toast and we lazed around with more chatting.
Jen making some headway on Mom's puzzle

Shelia curled up under a quilt

April knitting
It was a short trip, but we had a great time. Thanks to the amazing spouses for holding down the forts at home!