29 December 2008

Snow Day

It took waaaay more work than we expected, but we finally got our snow day yesterday. :)


I'm on vacation through Friday. So I don't expect to be posting much before the end of the year, so, Happy New Year, y'all. :)

23 December 2008

Happy Holidays is not an insult

Happy Holidays.

Hey, wait! Don't throw that ornament at me! I meant that in a NICE way!

Sheesh. I've seen no less than half-a-dozen bloggers throw a fit over the use of "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I really feel the need to point out that there are, indeed, more holidays than just Christmas that happen in December. In fact, there are at least seven that I'm aware of - probably more!

I've never been offended when someone said to me "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hannukah", "Blessed Yule", "Namaste", or any other well-wish or greeting. I take them all in the spirit intended: A show of fellowship. A wish for happiness.

If you say "Merry Christmas" and I answer back "Happy Holidays", I promise you it's not intended to insult or offend. And it is certainly not a personal attack on you or your religion or your god, okay?

When I say "Happy Holidays", that is my way of being inclusive - of trying to wish everyone a good and happy season, whatever their beliefs or practices.

Clear?

Good.

Ok, now let's tackle this obsessive need to control the Christmas holiday.

Again, the blogosphere seems to be full of Christians who resent me on this subject. I try not to take it too personally, but ... seriously? C'mon, it's not like you own the patent.

I am agnostic. To clarify, that means, to me, that I do not know if there is a god. If there is, I've never found a religion that defines "god" in a way I would identify with. I explain this here to make the point that, for me, Christmas has nothing to do with religion of any kind.

I celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday.

But you won't find a manger scene in my yard or a "Jesus is the reason for the season" sign in my house. (In fact, you would be more likely to see "Axial tilt is the reason for the season" - because I have a weird sense of humor like that.)

Some of my friends and family do decorate with religious trappings. And that's perfectly fine with me. As is the menorah my co-worker puts up. And the Kwanzaa candles at a neighbor's house. And the yule log and branches at another. Whatever makes you happy.

I'm very sorry, my dear Christian friends and family, if the way I celebrate Christmas - the secular holiday - does not meet your standards of how you celebrate Christmas the religious holiday.

But, just because they share a name and date does not mean that we are or should be celebrating the same thing.

There are untold numbers of words and phrases and traditions in modern American culture that have their roots in ancient (and not-so-ancient) religions and cultures. To use one of them does not imply an endorsement of their original meaning.
The word "Christmas" denotes your religious holiday. But it also happens to be the name we use to identify the secular holiday.
So, you need to share.
There might be implied meaning behind the word "Christmas" for you that is just not there for others. But that doesn't make your meaning more valid than mine.
My using the word "Christmas" no more means that I embrace your theology any more than my using the word "Thursday" means that I worship the Roman pantheon.
It's about etymology, not theology.

It's not about "taking Christ out of Christmas". If Jesus is your reason for the season, no one can "take" that away from you.
Here is my proposal: You celebrate Christmas the way you want to and I will celebrate the way I want to.
Voila: World peace! :)

I hope your holidays bring you much joy during this season.
Peace.

Calvin's Snowmen!

I am a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan. For me, it just wouldn't be the holidays without a nod to Calvin and his brilliant snow creations.

I usually pull out the ol' analog copies for a reminisce to really get my holiday geek on. But this year - thanks to my bestest blogging buddy over at Smokey Acres - I have e-versions I can share! :)


Happy Holidays!



22 December 2008

Happy Chrismahanakwanzayulstice!

I know it's not cool to say: But I am really looking forward to our family Christmas party.

I know people who dread their holiday family parties every year. For them, I almost feel guilty about how much I love the holidays.

For me, Christmas is all about family - it's the day we gather together and celebrate each other. The meal, the decorations, the presents ... those are all nice, but they are just the wrappings and trappings - the real gift is spending time with the people we love.

It just so happens that I actually LIKE most of the people I'm related to. I know, freaky, right?

This Christmas Eve, I will have a house full of family members spanning four generations. Our family gatherings are simple: There is no dress code, dinner is potluck, gifts are modest, and there are usually a plethora of kids and pets underfoot in over-crowded rooms. But everyone is welcome, and there is always plenty of love and laughter to go around.

I loved it all when I was a kid. And I love it all the more now that I'm a mom. Knowing that we are passing our traditions and values to our two adorable lil' minions - and all of our family's next generation - makes it all the more sweet.

We don't have everything. But we have everything that counts.

And we appreciate it.

In this crazy, hectic, commercialized world, my holiday wish for all of us is not that we will have more - but that we can all truly appreciate what we already have. :)

So, Happy Holidays - whatever holidays you may celebrate - from our family to yours.
May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door, and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.

In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, but never in want.


~ Irish Holiday Toast

21 December 2008

Happy Winter Solstice


Today is the Winter Solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Some cultures celebrate the solstices with festivals to recognize the cyclical nature of the world and our connection to it.

For those: Happy Solstice and Blessed Yule!

Personally, I always like to take a moment to note the Winter and Summer solstices. They remind me not to take nature - and our place in it - too much for granted.

I'm an extremely rational and practical person. I don't believe in - or really have a care about - anything magical or mystical or supernatural or paranormal.

So it might seem odd for me to say that I am often fascinated - awed, even - by the wonder of nature and by the myths different cultures have created to explain our world and man's place in it.

I love the Greek myths about creation and the seasons, and the Norse tales of the hero's journey, and Polynesians' wrathful fire goddess, and the many Celtic personifications of nature.

These stories are fascinating to me. From a literary perspective, for sure. But also from an anthropological one.

Ironically, it seems to me that the "average" person was more in touch with the natural world in ancient times - when we did not understand the "why" of it all.

Now that we can explain things from the astral to the molecular levels, we've lost some of our wonder.

We use clocks and calendars to track time, instead of the sun and seasons. Our homes are climate controlled to the point that weather is largely irrelevant.

Global positioning systems have taken the place of navigation by constellation. The lights of our cities block out the patterns of the stars. We speed by so fast in our cars and trains and planes, that we barely notice the animals and the trees and the rocks and the waterways.

We can touch the sky, we can leave our planet, we can see into other solar systems, and we can alter our own cells ... and all of that give us an illusion of being somehow removed from the rest of nature.

I get just as caught up in all of that as anybody else.

There are moments when nature still manages to break through all of the modern distractions and really take my breath away.

But, mostly, it's easy to fall into the fallacy that the beauty and wonder of nature is irrelevant to our everyday lives - that it's all separate from us.

So, at least twice a year - at the solstices - I like to take a moment to consciously acknowledge the beauty and wonder of this amazing world we live in.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not planning to shun modern conveniences and go live in a cave to commune with nature or anything.

Heck, I don't even plan to turn off my central heating today.

But ... for me, the solstice is a time to remember that we are all part of something bigger. It's a humble reminder not to take myself - or anyone else - too seriously. ;P

Happy Solstice.


19 December 2008

Oooo, shiny!

This is my house ...



This is my house on Christmas ...



The Husband and Minions think we need more lights and candy canes and snowmen and Santas and reindeer and penguins and ....

Is this a guy thing?

18 December 2008

I made that!

I am not crafty. In any sense of the word. So, it will likely come as a surprise to some of my loved ones that they are getting something homemade this year for Christmas:

But, it's true. I knitted my little fingers to the bone the last couple of months to make these (plus a couple more that didn't make it in the picture) for some family and friends.

Don' they look warm and fuzzy and cozy? Like long, sleek Tribbles who just want to cuddle up and nuzzle your neck.

If I ever get the feeling back in my knuckles, I will maybe make one for myself. :)

So, did you do anything "crafty" for the holidays?

12 December 2008

Kid Logic: Poop Tree

Dateline: Early September.
Location: Driving in the woods ... in a big ol' stretch of nowhere ... at night.


Minion1: "Mommy, I have to go potty."

Me: "Can you wait just a few more minutes until we get to our campground?"

Minion1: "No."

Me: "There's no bathrooms here, sweetie. Are you sure you can't wait just a little bit?"

Minion1 (now, with a note of desperation): "No, I hafta go RIGHT NOW."

So we pull to the side of the road and I take the Minion off into the trees to do what bears do in the woods.

Since we were going camping, we're prepared with a shovel for the occasion. Of course, being a Mommy, I also have handi-wipes in the glove box (and in my purse, and in our luggage, and in my pocket - 'cause it's in the job description).

Business done, we hike back to the car where Minion1 proudly shouts, "Daddy! We planted my Poo-Poo in the woods! It's gonna grow a giant Poo-Poo Tree!"

Fast-forward to this week: driving along again ...

Minion1: "Mommy, we need to go see MY tree."

Me: "Oh, what tree is that?"

Minion1: "My POO-POO TREE a'course! I bet it's REALLY big now! Can we go see it?!"

Minion2, gleefully: "Poo!"

Me: "I am *so* blogging this tomorrow."

10 December 2008

Nothing to See Here

I can't "Call in Gay Today", but I can at least show my support for the cause. So, in honor of "Day Without a Gay" - and in support of human rights - I am "calling in gay" and taking the day off from blogging. Nothing to see here today ... 'cept that link in the picture to the left. Click it! You know you want to.

08 December 2008

The Tao of Baloo

Oh, wow.

I think I just had an epiphany.

I've always loved this song - and the character. I even sing it to my kids, sometimes. But I never consciously realized until just right now how very zen this song is. :)




And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you

29 November 2008

Bunny Vision

Omigawsh. Am I the last person to discover this hilarity? Toon bunnies reinacting classic films in 60 seconds. Total time-waster. But ... Tee Hee.

Bunny-Vision

24 November 2008

Imagination Movers rock

Reach High!
Think Big!
Work Hard!

Have Fun!

The Imagination Movers rock!

Longtime readers (*snort*) will recall my past exultation of The Backyardigans as a great show for preschoolers. And it is: Music, dance, imaginative play - My boys and I spent many a morning dancing around the living room to that show.

But the love a four-year-old is fickle.

Minon #1 has a new obsession: The Imagination Movers on Playhouse Disney. And Mommy doesn't mind at all that he and his 18-month-old brother want to watch this show. Every. Single. Day.

No, really. Because I like it just as much as the kids do. Seriously, these guys are awesome.

The Movers - Rich, Scott, Dave and Smitty - are four "regular" guys from New Orleans who started recording and performing their own kids tunes and quickly became a local phenom.

Three of the Movers are Dads themselves and only one of them has a "professional" music background. The others have varied backgrounds: Award-winning teacher, architect, firefighter.

Their music has been called "Beastie Boys meets Mr. Rogers" and I'd say that's not a bad description. Their sound is actually pretty eclectic: A little rock, a little pop, a little funk, a little country ... and a lot of fun.

The tunes are so catchy that Minion#1 dances around the living room singing his favorites even when the TV is not on. And the messages of the songs and the show are spot-on for preschoolers.

The Mover Motto: "Reach High! Thing Big! Work Hard! Have Fun!" has become our family mantra for "brainstorming". Just say those words to my boys and watch them grin and start to dance.

If you have a preschooler and, for some strange reason you have NOT seen this fun and educational show, do yourself a favor: Crawl out from under your rock and check it out.

So ... what is YOUR favorite kids show?

20 November 2008

Grammar Matters

Wedge over at Kilobox Communique has a guest post by Jules about the importance of spelling.

This is a topic close to my heart, and I'm afraid I wrote a whole book - or at least a few chapters - in my response. Sorry, Wedge. :)

So, I thought I'd share my thoughts on this here, as well. Here is the gist of what I had to say:

As a self-professed grammar ninja (which is two degrees kinder, but one degree more dangerous than a grammar snob) I have to fall strongly on the side of "Spelling Counts!"

I walk around my daily life mentally copy editing everything from billboards to menus to shop signs to fliers posted on telephone poles - a habit and hazard of my trade.

My dictionary, thesaurus and AP Style Guide are indispensable tools of that trade.

Yes, we make all make mistakes. Typos Happen. And I'm a teensy bit more relaxed about it in my "casual" writing (personal emails, text messages, blogs, twitter).

But I am absolutely mortified when grammatical errors slip into my professional writing or past my professional editing.

Some of my colleagues think I am a bit over-zealous (thus the "grammar ninja" title). But I would argue that it is not only my job to get it right - and therefore a matter of personal and professional pride - but it is also a matter of the CREDIBILITY of my organization - and not just because I work in public education.

There is little-to-no excuse for companies and organizations to NOT have perfect copy.

As a customer or stakeholder, why should I trust your judgment or have faith in your skills if you can't spell a word associated with your product or service .. or if you don't know the difference between "it's" and "its" ... or if you can't seem to master subject-verb agreement?

Customers SHOULD question the credibility and professionalism of companies that don't know or don't care enough to get it right.

Jules, if you are "outdated" or "arrogant" ... I guess I am, too. Grammar Ninjas Unite. :)

This is not the first time - and certainly not the last - I have climbed up on my grammar soap-box to proclaim my opinion to the blogosphere.

The bottom line? Grammar matters.

19 November 2008

Equal Protection

Some very interesting and insightful discussions going on over at the Daily Dish about the legal and constitutional implications of California's Prop 8 today.

My favorite:

"That's the point of the Equal Protection Clause. The rights of minorities aren't subject to extinction by the majority's fiat."

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

14 November 2008

On becoming ART

This week, I went with a good friend as she got her first tattoo. She was a little nervous about the pain and she wanted me there to support and distract her.

I can relate, because it's been just under a year since I became art.

I've always liked (tasteful) tattoos, but there were two things that kept me from getting one: Pain and Permanence.

After I had kids, both of those reasons went away - the pain didn't seem so scary because, well, after childbirth, nothing seems as scary. :) And as for the permanence, what could be more permanent than your children?

As our families are Scottish and Irish, I wanted to get a Celtic knot of some sort with my son's initials or birth signs incorporated into it. Doing some research, I found out that one of the top Celtic tattoo artists in the country just happens to be in Santa Barbara - just a few hours away from my home. So, I made an appointment - it was an 8-week waiting list - and started narrowing down my design ideas.

With help from artist Pat Fish (who is a very interesting character herself) and her assistant, Colin, I chose a beautiful Celtic Tree of Life design by Welsh artist Jan Delyth added my sons' initials and birthstone colors.

I was supposed to meet with Pat on that Saturday to finalize the design and then return on Sunday for the tattoo. But it turned out she had an opening Saturday night, so I took it.

IT HURT.

Don't let anybody tell you different. Sometimes it felt like being scratched or scraped, sometimes it was a burning sensation, and sometimes it was a little "stabby". :)

But, hey, if they were licked on by kittens, everyone would have one, eh?

Anyway, it wasn't the worst pain I've ever felt. (I did mention that I've given birth to two strapping young lads, yes?)

The tattoo goes across my spine and is relatively large, and I thought it was funny that some parts hurt more than others. Pat said it's because of the way nerves are clustered around your spine. At the time, I was too busy gritting my teeth and counting the tropical fish in her tank for the 400th time to really pay close attention. But, in retrospect, that's interesting, no?

Funny story: When Pat started the ink, my husband made a joke about "too late to back out now" and Pat told us about a girl who came in to get a Pegasus tattoo and left with one horse leg because the pain was too much! Daay-am. Now THAT'S a story. I wonder what she did with that?

So, anyway ... after about two hours in Pat's super-cool antique medical chair, she declared me "art".

Having done my homework on tattoos and their care - and having a top-shelf artist - paid off. My art healed up very quickly and without any major discomfort.

I have to say, I think the end result is lovely! What do you think?

Okay. I've shown you mine. Now you show me yours!

###

Two bits of advice for anyone getting a first tattoo ...

1) Eat first.

Seriously. Don't get tattooed on an empty stomach. The pain endorphins mess with your blood sugar and leave you all wiped out like your coming down off a Red Bull binge. I just ate a light snack before mine and I was shaking and sweating after the short walk to the car and I just wanted to eat and then pass out.

2) Do your homework.

Get a good artist (yes, they cost more, but they are worth it) and work with her to really get exactly what you want. After all, it's the only thing you will take with you when you go. Choose wisely.


12 November 2008

Randomness x 7

I've been meme'd. So here are Seven Random Things about me:

1 - I have been knitting the same baby blanket for almost two years. I have no idea what I will do with it when it's completed. But I WILL finish the darn thing. Someday.

2 - I got my first stitches before I was 3 years old. Three stitches. In my face. That pretty much set the trend for my life. I am a klutz and injure myself on a regular basis. But never very seriously.

3 - I like to eat lemons. With salt.

4 - I'm a grammar ninja.

5 - I love the outdoors. But I hate bugs.

6 - I catalogue my personal collections of books and movies. Alphabetically. In Excel. Because I'm just a little bit OCD like that.

7 - Is my second-favorite number.

11 November 2008

Tale of the Magic Jeans

I don't like shopping for jeans. C'mon, who does? Really?

For me, it's like "Cathy" shopping for swimsuits. I start out with positive expectations and slowly devolve into disappointment, frustration and lowered self-esteem to the point where I want to grab the nearest fashion designer by the ears and scream, "REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES!"

Well, it turns out someone was paying attention to that war-cry of hippy women everywhere (I'm lookin' at you, moms.) Because NYDJ came out with Not Your Daughter's Jeans with "Tummy Tuck" technology.

I know. You're skeptical. So was I! I saw the sign and thought, "Pfft, yeah, whatever."

Then I read their miracle-tonic label, "Flattens your tummy! Lifts your Butt!" Suuuuuure it does. "Makes you look and feel a size smaller!" I actually snorted at that one. Ignoring the dirty look from the nearby saleswoman, I read on: "... no love handles ... more comfortable than your favorite sweat pants ..."

What? No claim that it erases wrinkles and cures world hunger?!

I didn't buy their snake-oil sales pitch for a minute .

But ... they did feel really soft ... and the color and cut were nice ... and maybe, just maybe, this pair might actually be made to fit a real person and not some stick-figure fashion model. So I took them into the dressing room and tried them on ...

And a chorus of angels burst into song as I sank softly into the most comfortable pair of jeans I'd ever put on.

I knew without even looking in the mirror that I would buy them, they fit and felt that good. And then I dared look in the mirror: Hmmm, not bad from the front. Not bad at all. No mommy bulge ... no muffin top ...

But what about the back? I stepped outside to face the dreaded three-way mirror.

And there was that choir of angels again!

Waaaa-hooo! My ass looked great, if-I-do-say-so-myself!

Seriously, these are the most comfortable thing I have ever put on my lower half.
They are magic ... a'la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They FIT. They DO make your tummy flatter and your butt firmer, and they ARE so comfortable that you could do yoga in them.

I mean, c'mon! Sliced bread's got nothin' on these jeans!

And then I found out they come in SLACKS, too!

*Haaa-lle-lu-jah ... Haaa-lle-lu-jah*

Consider this a Public Service Announcement for curvy women everywhere: Buy. These. Jeans.

At least go try them on.

If I was Oprah, every woman on my show would get a pair of these jeans. "You get a hot ass, and you get a hot ass, and you get a hot ass ..."

* Disclaimer: Jeans may or may not include angelic chorus.

On Love: Keith Olbermann

Beautiful: The best 6 1/2 minutes of television I've seen in a while.

10 November 2008

Kid Logic: Deep Holes

Four-year-old minion, intensely plying his plastic shovel to the dirt pile in Daddy's wheelbarrow: "I'm digging a really deep hole. I think I am digging all the way to China."

Daddy, with a chuckle: "Oh? You think you can get all the way to China from here?"

Boy, deadpan, with a hint of reproach at Daddy's lack of faith: "Daddy. It's a VERY deep wheelbarrow."

09 November 2008

Best. Turkey. Ever.

You must make this turkey!

I am not a cook. I admit this freely and without shame. The Husband does 90 percent of the cooking in our house. If you want omelettes, pancakes, waffles, enchiladas, Spanish rice, lasagna, chicken breasts or something out of a box - I'm your gal. Anything else - talk to The Husband.

So, considering that disclaimer, why the heck am I blogging about a recipe?! And why on earth should you listen to *me*?!?

Because it is The. Best. Turkey. Ever. And it's EASY!

Why should you take advice from someone as culinarily challenged as me? Because it's not MY recipe - it's Alton Brown's! And HE is a kitchen god (which is a little bit like being a rock god, but yummier.)

Seriously, do yourself, your guests and your bird a favor: TRY THIS RECIPE. I did. And I made a flavorful, moist, golden-brown-and-delicious turkey. Me. The girl who can't boil toast.

Trust me: If *I* can do it, anybody can. :)

So do it!

Good Eats Roast Turkey

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.



06 November 2008

We Shall Be Free

This is the song I have been hearing in my head all week.



We've come so far. And yet ... not.

Californians demonstrated this week that we care more about the humane treatment of farm animals than we do about the humane treatment of human beings.

Fortunately, the battle is not over. Because so long as one of us is chained, none of us are free.

In the end, I am confident, compassion and equality will prevail. But only if we don't give up.


We Shall Be Free
Garth Brooks

This ain't comin' from no prophet
Just an ordinary man
When I close my eyes I see
The way this world shall be
When we all walk hand in hand

When the last child cries for a crust of bread
When the last man dies for just words that he said
When there's shelter over the poorest head
We shall be free

When the last thing we notice is the color of skin
And the first thing we look for is the beauty within
When the skies and the oceans are clean again
Then we shall be free

We shall be free, We shall be free
Stand straight, walk proud
'Cause we shall be free

When we're free to love anyone we choose
When this world's big enough for all different views
When we all can worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free
We shall be free

We shall be free
Have a little faith, Hold out
'Cause we shall be free

And when money talks for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there's only one race and that's mankind
Then we shall be free

We shall be free, We shall be free
Stand straight, walk proud, have a little faith, hold out
We shall be free

We shall be free, We shall be free
Stand straight, have a little faith
We shall be free

05 November 2008

Free at last!

It's a history-making event! A redefining moment! A break-through for the country -nay, the world!

Nooo ... not the Presidential election. Pfft. That's so yesterday's news.

No, I'm talking about the genius of "Frustration-Free Packaging" from Amazon.

Amazon.com will now deliver (select) products in "an easy-to-open, recyclable cardboard box."


Shhhh ... you had me at "easy-to-open".

Almost any parent can tell you that "wrap-rage" is a serious problem in this country. Kids toys and electronics are the worst culprits.

I can't count the number of times I've wrestled with child-proof, theft-proof, zen-proof packaging while my kids danced around just wanting to "plaaaaaay with it!"

(Mostly, I can't count them because I can no longer see my fingers through the band-aids. Those scars have forever ended any chance I had for a career as a hand model.)

But - at last - there is HOPE!

No more tearing into plastic clamshell packages can-opener style; No more piles of teensy-tiny plastic twist-ties and their choking-hazard grommets; No more kung-fu fighting with taped-up, tied-up, trussed-up toys while your toddler cries in frustration.

It's gotten to the point that I break into a cold sweat just walking by toy aisles. Christmas and birthdays make me hyperventilate.

But now! ... "easy to open" ... beautiful.

Wait! And it's green, too?!

*Swoon*

Where have you been all my life?!

I guess these guys will soon be out of business. Meh. Serves 'em right for marketing a mono-tasker. Not in my kitchen, bub!


03 November 2008

Celebrate

There was a "No on Prop 8" Rally in my town yesterday.

Yay! Just the idea makes me feel not-so-alone in my opposition to this attempted ban on Same Sex Marriage.

But, I couldn't attend. My children are too young to be trusted anywhere near a busy street corner unless they are being firmly held - or are tied to a lamp post. The first is not really an option for the squirmy mass of limbs that is my escape-artist 17-month-old. And people tend to frown on trussed-up 4-year-olds in public for some reason. Go figure.

So, I did not participate. But I did make it a point to drive by and honk and wave and give a "thumbs up" to those brave folks out there on the street corners with their homemade signs.

And, trust me, it IS a brave thing to do in this town. As I have mentioned before, we are little specks of Liberal Blue awash in a sea of Conservative Red here in California's Central Valley. My thumb was not the only finger being waved from a passing car.

So, we drove by a couple of times to show our support.

And my 4-year-old was fascinated by the joyful cheering and waving from the street corners as we honked and waved.

"Mommy, they are celebrating us," he said in a happy, awed tone.

"Yes, big boy, they are."

"But why are they celebrating us?" This as he waved frantically from his car seat at anyone he could see.

"I guess because we are celebrating them," I replied.

No hesitation: "Yeah, cuz everybody wants to be celebrated. It's nice. It makes you happy."

Yeah.

Everybody wants to be celebrated. Everybody wants to be happy. Everybody wants to love and be loved.


Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness: Self-evident. Unalienable.

Equality. Compassion. Love. Celebration.

Without these, where would we be?


My 4-year-old gets it.

Why don't the h8ers?

My husband and I voted NO on Prop 8.

28 October 2008

Still waiting

A while back, I asked for some rational arguments against Same-Sex Marriage.

I'm still waiting.

I still have yet to hear one - just ONE! - rational reason why Californians should pass Proposition 8 - which is an attempt to alter our State Constitution to define "marriage" as a "only between a man and woman".

I've heard lies.

I've heard misdirection.

I've heard ignorance.

I've heard fear.

But I have not heard one logical, legal argument as to why Citizen A should be allowed to enter into a legal contract with another consenting adult of his or her choice but Citizen B should be denied that same right.

Your church will not lose it's tax-exempt status. Your pastor will not be arrested for preaching about homosexuality. Your Bible will not be banned. Your kids will not be forced to learn about homosexual intercourse. Your own rights will remain unchanged.

Oh, and Prop. 8 won't "restore" marriage to any previous definition overturned by "activist judges legislating from the bench."

What it WOULD do is endanger our Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights - not just for gays, but for EVERYONE.

Those judges were doing exactly what they are sworn to do: Interpret and uphold the Constitution. And the most basic premise of our State and Federal Constitutions - the very foundation of our whole Nation - is that ALL people are EQUAL under the law.

How can anyone possibly reconcile that deeply held American value of equality with the intention and consequence of this Proposition?

So, I'll say it again: Prop. 8 is thoroughly UN-American.
Proposition 8 puts discrimination INTO our Constitution. It requires the government to treat it's citizens differently under the law. And THAT undermines the very foundation of equality and civil rights we ALL enjoy as Americans.
Whether you personally approve of homosexuality or not is irrelevant. The real question we are deciding next week is whether or not the Government can pick and chose which of its citizens may have certain civil rights and which may not.
Is that really a slope you want to start travelling down?

They first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up.

Democracy is not the law of the majority but the protection of the minority.-- Albert Camus
A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left.-- Justice William O. Douglas
The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen -- a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person’s] life. -- Justice William O. Douglas
The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals... It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.-- Albert Gallatin
The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own particular ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours.-- William James
Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.-- Thomas Jefferson
The best principles of our republic secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights. -- Thomas Jefferson
I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson
The busybodies have begun to infect American society with a nasty intolerance -- a zeal to police the private lives of others and hammer them into standard forms -- A Nation of Finger Pointers.-- Lance Morrow
From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own." -- Carl Schurz
We must remember that a right lost to one is lost to all.-- William Reece Smith, Jr
The constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.-- Wendell L. Wilkie

20 October 2008

I know it's here somewhere

I seem to have misplaced my Calm.

I know it must be around here somewhere. I mean, I just had it a bit ago.

I know I had it this morning when my four-year-old threw up in his bed. And I'm sure I still had it when I could not find the one-year-old's shoes. I think it was still there when the zipper broke on the baby's brand-new jacket.

I remember clinging to it desperately when the four-year-old threw a tantrum for no particular reason, causing the one-year-old to follow suit as I was trying to get them both in the car. But by the time I had gotten to the sitters' house and realized I'd forgotten their day bag, it was well-and-truly gone.

I know if I could just set aside this pile of little frustrations, I would find my Calm underneath them all.

So I need to wash bedsheets tonight ... so I was a little late to work ... so the kids went an hour without their bag ... so what?

I have two beautiful, healthy children ... I have a wonderful babysitter who loves them like they were family ... I have a loving and helpful husband who doesn't sweat the small stuff ... I have a kind and understanding boss who realizes that some mornings are just out of control.

The four-year-old is not sick. The one-year-old is warm. The shoes will be found. The Husband delivered the bag to the sitter.

Everyone is where they need to be and doing what they need to do. The world is an amazing place. This day is an amazing gift. All is right with the world.

Ahhh, there it is. That Calm wasn't so hard to find, after all. And it's brought a Lesson back with it:

I must work on growing my Calm, if I want to keep from misplacing it again.

After all, my Calm must be too small, if I was able to lose it among such little things this morning.

"Calm in quietude is not real calm.When you can be calm in the midst of activity,
this is the true state of nature.


Happiness in comfort is not real happiness.
When you can be happy in the midst of hardship,
then you see the true potential of the mind."

~ Huanchu Daoren

19 October 2008

The Force is strong with this family

Friday, we took the Minions to trick-or-treat at the "Zoo Boo" - an annual Halloween party at our local zoo.

In true geek-family fashion, the minions went as Jedi. Minion #1 was a young Obi Wan and Minion #2 was Yoda.

Adorable, they were.

We saw one or two other Padawans wandering about, but not many. It seems Spider-Man was the Tickle-Me-Elmo of Halloween this year. You could hardly turn around without tripping over a friendly neighborhood web-crawler. There were also a suspicious number of pirates about.

I suspect the fleet was in town.

For the girls, of course, it was all about the Disney Princesses. Though I did see several witches and some female super-heroes - which would have been encouraging had it not been for the fact that some of the costumes were way to0 sexy for six-year-olds. That just made it kinda creepy. Can I just say one more time how happy I am to have boys?

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yeah: Trick-or-treating Jedi.

The boys had a good time wandering about scavenging candy from the vendor tables and seeing the animals at night. We are members and visit the zoo a lot, so you'd think they might have been a little blase' about the venue. But no, they had a blast.

"Obi-Wan" can't wait for Halloween now ... wants to know when he gets to don his light saber and "get more treats". In fact, he's hardly put his light saber down since Saturday. He'd have slept with it last night if I'd let him. :)

"Yoda" isn't old enough to to have developed the candy avarice yet ... but he had a lot of fun people-watching. So I think he'll enjoy our little outing on the 31st, too.

We don't do the traditional door-to-door thing on Halloween, because: 1) The kids are really too young, and 2) Mommy's never liked it ... dark streets, candy from strangers, and teens who think the night is designed for mayhem? No thanks.

Instead, we go to our local mall's Trick-or-Treat Party. Lighter, safer, climate controlled ... Now that's my idea of a good time. :)

Personally, I think the best part of both the Zoo Boo and the Mall Party is just seeing all the kids (and some adults) in costumes. (But if you ask The Husband, he'll tell you it's the candy.)

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite adult costumes from the Zoo Boo:



Cute, huh?

I think the guy "riding" the ostrich is my favorite, but you totally have to give props to the bald guy donning the pumpkin stem, eh? The girl? Well, it's HP - I couldn't pass that up. There was a also a cute trio of witches a'la Macbeth, but I didn't get a pic.

I also didn't get any good pics of other kids - but there were several cute and clever costumes, including twins dressed as Mario Brothers, an adorable little Raggedy Anne and Andy pair, and a jumpsuited Elvis, thankyouverymuch.

So, what are you going to be for Halloween?

15 October 2008

No On Prop 8

Thanks to Dave2 at Blogography for pointing me to these great videos!

As I've said before - and will continue to proclaim from my tiny little soap box - Proposition 8 is unconstutional, unfair and downright un-American.

Vote No On Prop. 8






14 October 2008

The Lies of Locke Lamora




I read for a lot of reasons - to stretch my mind, to enhance my mind, to change my mind, to calm my mind. But, sometimes, I just like to read to entertain my mind ...

Yep, my dirty little literati secret: I love "brain candy" ... books with no redemptive value beyond the pleasure of the moment.

Since Minion #2 was born just over a year ago, that's been the main fare around here on the literature front. I don't have the time or energy for the meatier tomes.

Nietzsche-Schmietzsche ... just give me a few minutes a few nights a week with something light and fluffy - science fiction and fantasy being my favorite flavor - and I'm happy enough.

My "to read" pile has gotten very tall indeed as most of my literary meat and potatoes - and even the more exciting steak and lobster - have been pushed to the bottom to make room for the cotton candy and bubble gum.

I thought I was choosing more of the same when I recently picked up The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

But I was only half-right.

It was candy, all right ... but it wasn't bubble gum, or even a chewy nougat-y treat.

No, it was more like an exotic truffle - one that hits you upside the tastebuds with a rich and complex flavor and texture. Mmmmm. Not exactly nourishing ... but extremely satisfying, none-the-less.

I enjoyed it so much that I immediately ordered the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies and devoured that as quickly as the first. Now I have to wait until 2009 for the third course. And I find myself awaiting that as eagerly as ... well ... dessert.

I won't give away any spoilers - because I hate it when people do that - but I will say that it was a great story, with interesting characters, nice pacing, fun twists, skillful foreshadowing, and a riveting attention to "background" detail in a uniquely imagined - but still believable - world that was simultaneously alien and familiar.

It's a little bit Fafhrd-and-the-grey-mouser-meets-Ocean's-Eleven ... with a side of Oliver Twist and a dash of Renaissance Italy. And it's a good mix. It left me satisfied with a well-told tale ... but still wanting more of these characters and their lives. That's not a bad for a first-time author. Bravo.

Was it Chaucer or Dickens or Twain? Nah. But it was yummy anyway. You should try it.

What are you still doing here?

Go. Read it. Let me know what you think.

11 October 2008

Quote Junkie: On Bunny Slippers and the Human Condition

A collection of quotes from one of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz:

“Some people think only intellect counts: Knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.”

“One of the greatest sorrows of human existence is that some people aren't happy to merely be alive but find their happiness only in the misery of others.”

“We are an arrogant species, full of terrible potential, but we also have a great capacity for love, friendship, generosity, kindness, faith, hope, and joy.”

“Do as little harm to others as you can; make any sacrifice for your true friends; be responsible for yourself and ask nothing of others; and grab all the fun you can. Don't give much thought to yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, live in the moment, and trust that your existence has meaning even when the world seems to be all blind chance and chaos. When life lands a hammer blow in your face, do your best to respond to the hammer as if it had been a cream pie. Sometimes black humor is the only kind we can summon, but even dark laughter can sustain.”

“When tempest tossed, embrace chaos.”

“Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small changes for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love.”

“Human beings can always be relied upon to exert, with vigor, their God-given right to be stupid.”

“A fanatic is a nut who has something to believe in.”

“I think it's perfectly just to refuse service to anyone based on behavior, but not based on race or religion.”

“I try not to spend too much time on partisan politics. Life's too short for that. I don't really believe that there have been many human problems solved by politics.”

"I'd give Charles Darwin videotapes of 'Geraldo,' 'Beavis and Butt-head' and 'The McLaughlin Group.' I would be interested in seeing if he still believes in evolution."

“In my books, I never portray violence as a reasonable solution to a problem. If the lead characters in the story are driven to it, it's at the extreme end of their experience.”

“Writing a novel is like making love, but it's also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it's like making love while having a tooth pulled.”

“Six billion of us walking the planet, six billion smaller worlds on the bigger one. Shoe salesmen and short-order cooks who look boring from the outside - some have weirder lives than you. Six billion stories, every one an epic, full of tragedy and triumph, good and evil, despair and hope. You and me - we aren't so special, bro.”

"I believe that we carry within us a divinely inspired moral imperative to love ... We have within us the ability to change for the better and to find dignity as individuals rather than as drones in one mass movement or another. We have the ability to love, the need to be loved, and the willingness to put our own lives on the line to protect those we love, and it is in these aspects of ourselves that we can glimpse the face of God; and through the exercise of these qualities, we come closest to a Godlike state."

“Bunny slippers remind me of who I am. You can't get a swelled head if you wear bunny slippers. You can't lose your sense of perspective and start acting like a star or a rich lady if you keep on wearing bunny slippers. Besides, bunny slippers give me confidence because they're so jaunty. They make a statement; they say, 'Nothing the world does to me can ever get me so far down that I can't be silly and frivolous.' If I died and found myself in Hell, I could endure the place if I had bunny slippers.”


09 October 2008

Stars upon thars

Sometimes I feel really out of place in my little town.

I'm a non-religious, left-leaning, tree-hugging, civil-rights advocate surrounded by "god-fearing" right-wing, Christian "morals and values" conservatives.

Now, don't get me wrong: Most of the folks I know and interact with everyday are really very nice people. And, in general, there is a lot to like about our community and the people in it. But, every now and then, it is brought home to me that I am, indeed, a Plain-Bellied Sneetch in the land of the Star-Bellies.

This week, I have grown especially tired of listening to the fear-mongering, right-wing rhetoric regarding Proposition 8.

It's been in my newspaper, it's been in my mailbox, it's been in my inbox, in my office, in my grocery store, on my computer, on my streets. And I'm fed up with the manipulative misinformation.

For anyone who might not know: Prop. 8 is a measure on the November ballot here in California that attempts to make an end-run around the State Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. So, the people opposed to same-sex marriages decided, well, we can fix that right up ... and are proposing to change the State Constitution to reflect their "moral values" that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California".

It should be obvious that I'm opposed to this measure. To me, it is a simple matter of civil rights. I can respect that other people see it differently. I think they are wrong. But I can still respect their right to that opinion.

But if one more person tells me that Prop. 8 is going to hurt kids and churches and puppies ... I might scream.

If you want to support this Proposition, fine. That is your right and I encourage you to exercises it as you see fit. But base your arguments on FACTS, please, not hyperbole!

Here is what the California Legislative Analyst's Office has to say about Prop. 8 ... and the official California Voter Guide ... and Wikipedia ... and the L.A. Times ... and the San Diego Union-Tribune ... the Santa Cruz Sentinel ... the SF Chronicle ... the NY Times ... Oh, and let's don't forget what the California Supreme Court had to say on the subject (if you don't want to read the full 175 pages of legal-ese, here's a nice little summary).


Prop 8. Fiction vs. the Facts

Fiction: People can be sued over personal beliefs.
Fact: California’s laws already prohibit discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This has nothing to do with marriage.

Fiction: Churches could lose their tax-exemption status.
Fact: Nothing in Prop 8 would force churches to do anything. In fact, the court decision regarding marriage specifically says “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”
Fiction: Same-sex marriage would be taught in public schools.Fact: Not one word in Prop 8 mentions education, and no child can be forced, against the will of their parents, to be taught anything about health and family issues at school. California law prohibits it. A Sacramento Superior Court judge has already ruled that this claim by the proponents of Prop 8 is “false and misleading.” In fact, the “case” that is cited in the ad is from Massachusetts…the proponents knew what California law said, so they used another state, again to mislead voters.

Fiction: Four Activist Judges in San Francisco…
Fact: Prop 8 is not about courts and judges, it's about eliminating a fundamental right. Judges didn't grant the right, the constitution guarantees the right. Proponents of Prop 8 use an outdated and stale argument that judges aren't supposed to protect rights and freedoms. This campaign is about whether Californians, right now, in 2008 are willing to amend the constitution for the sole purpose of eliminating a fundamental right for one group of citizens.

07 October 2008

Again with the science stuff

As it has been clearly established that The Minions are in charge of 90 percent of show selection from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., I am increasingly thankful for Tivo.

With the miracle of Tivo, The Husband and I can not only record appropriate shows for the kids (because, really, some of the stuff they aim at preschoolers these days? Blech!), but we can also record "adult" programming to help ensure that our brains don't melt out of our ears as a result of prolonged exposure to puppets and toons.

Yes, Tivo enables our mild addiction to science TV - wait ... what did you think I meant by "adult" programming? Pervs.

Anyway ... Left to his own devices, The Husband would probably watch nothing but the Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. Except on Sundays, when it is all about football and The Simpsons.
While I also enjoy some more mainstream TV shows, I have to admit to sharing his geeky addiction to science shows. And neither of us can understand why the hell people watch those awful "reality TV" shows when there are so many great "real" shows on channels like these.

I can usually resist the History Channel stuff, because he mostly watches the shows on warfare and such. Some of them are interesting, (like when they built a working trebuchet). But usually, I'm kind of ... Meh ... on the history stuff. Neat, but I can live without it.
But the science shows always suck me in ... particle physics, space exploration, biology, earth science ... man, that is some fascinating stuff!

As a long-time sci-fi geek, I especially enjoy the exploration of the connection between science fiction and real-world advances.

But I also love the fun and irreverent psuedo-science of "Mythbusters", the melodrama of "Shark Week", the trivia of "How It's Made", and even the not-very scientific, but always interesting "Dirty Jobs". (Of course, that has nothing to do with the fact that Mike Rowe is a hottie.)

I also absolutely adore Alton Brown. He might be on a different channel, but his show offers a healthy dose of science, albeit of the culinary variety.

I guess what I love best about these shows is that they make the marvels of modern science accessible to me on a level that I can understand.

As a former journalist, I know how very difficult it can be to take a complex topic and make it understandable to the general public. Especially when you consider the average attention span of the modern TV viewer.

So, if they can help me - a complete layperson - get the general gist of some very complicated theories and research ... well, I'm impressed. And thankful.

Unlike the other kind of "reality" TV, these shows are inspiring and uplifting. These shows remind me of the amazing potential of our species. They are a celebration of our curiousity, our ingenuity and our interconnectedness with our universe and each other.


29 September 2008

Kid-Logic: Boys will be

Reason number 1,475 that Son #2 is different than Son #1:

The four-year-old doesn't like wearing sandals in dirt or sand (or wet grass) because he doesn't like it when his feet get dirty.

The one-year-old doesn't like wearing sandals because they make it harder to eat the dirt from between his toes.

28 September 2008

I Read Banned Books

You should, too.

Because every year there are hundreds of "challenges" in communities all over the country to classic and emergent literature.

Sept. 27 through Oct. 4 is the American Library Association's Banned Book Week. As a life-long bibliophile and a big fan of my basic civil rights, this is a topic I care quite a bit about.

You might not be surprised to know that the books most often "challenged" are children books. That makes sense if your point of view is that you are "protecting" young minds.

But the problem is that the people who make these challenges are not just making the decision to keep their OWN children from reading these books - they are taking that decision away from YOU and ME.

This kind of censorship - no matter how well intentioned - is a violation of intellectual freedom. It denies our right as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. And it cannot be tolerated.

In the words of the late Robert Heinlein, an author whose own books have been on the ALA's "challenged" list:

"When any government, or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives."

If you value intellectual freedom, I encourage you to attend a BBW event or read (or re-read) a Banned Book or just take a moment to look through the ALA's lists of Frequent Challenges. You might be surprised by what you find there.

But, most importantly, I encourage you to PAY ATTENTION to what is going on in YOUR community. Do you know what books have been challenged in your schools or libraries?

Because here is the scary part: Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported.

Here are a few of MY favorite Challenged or Banned Books:

  • Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
  • Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  • The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
  • The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  • Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
  • The Color Purple - Alice Walker
  • Killing Mr. Griffin - Lois Duncan
  • To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee`
  • Beloved - Toni Morrison
  • Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Green
  • A Time To Kill - John Grisham
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die - Robert Newton Peck
  • Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
  • Then Again, Maybe I Won’t - Judy Blume
  • Earth’s Children Series - Jean M. Auel
  • A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
  • The Pigman - Paul Zindel
  • Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
  • Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  • Native Son - Richard Wright
  • That Was Then, This is Now - S.E. Hinton
  • How to Eat Fried Worms - Thomas Rockwell
  • James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl
  • A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
So, what Banned or Challenged Books do YOU love?