Friday, January 29, 2010

Houston, we have a problem. No. Scratch that

After the bus had come for Ittybit, The Champ politely asked for cupcakes. "Batman cupcakes."

Which is why, at 8:15 in the morning, I was ransacking the kitchen for a box of cake mix.

Houston, we have a problem.

We have no boxed cake mix, which means I'll have to go out to the grocery store or say "No."

I hate saying no, but it's about a zillion degrees below zero outside and I don't want to do the car-seat dance. Isn't there another way?

"You make them fo me? Pease? Batman cupcakes? Pease?"

What do mean? From scratch?

Me? Seriously?

Blink. Blink. Blink.

So, at 8:18 a.m. I opened "The Joy of Cooking," found the cupcakes section and looked for an easy-looking recipe.

Located one that seemed manageable and immediately found myself improvising:

Yogurt Cupcakes (reduced fat)

In medium-sized bowl mix:

2 1/4 cups flour (whoops ... I used 2 1/2 cups).
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

In large bowl cream:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter (We have no butter. Threw some canola oil in the bottom of the bowl ... looks like three or four or five tablespoons maybe.)
1 cup sugar. (All we had is that brown raw sugar, so I used it.)
1 large egg, two large egg whites ... (Didn't bother with separating, The Champ was intent on helping. Let him crack two large eggs and then retrieved the shells from the mixing bowl.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract. (Didn't have any, used a dash of lemon extract and a dash of almond extract.)

Add flour mixture to fat mixture in three parts.

(Thank GOD for KitchenAid. I'm already exausted.)

Add one cup yogurt (All we had was strawberry. Good enough.)

Spoon into cupcake silicones (with huge amount of spillage).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 (or 23) minutes.

Voila. A baking experiment.

Not bad.

They were actually quite moist and tasty even if they were a little more muffin-like than cupcake-like.

I suppose I could have problem-solved the Batman thing with some chocolate frosting but The Champ had forgotten about that part of the request. Problem solved.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Question Thursday

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

I'm watching Big Love on HBO last Sunday, (Sadly I don't watch a lot of TV, but I've gotten myself hooked on HBO's Sunday lineup since the creation of The Sopranos.) and there's a scene where Margene is being informed by her boss, a shopping channel executive, that she's going to be appearing live and on prime time. Good news. And that the appearance is a really test for a more lucrative position. Better news.

Margene goes in for a hug and the boss deflects. Twice.

Twists and turns, crazy people doing crazy things by the second throughout the hour-long show and all I can think about is how there were only two kinds of people: The Huggers and the Non-Huggers.

But now I'm thinking about how now the line between them seems less defined. There certainly are huggers and non-huggers, but there are also huggers who hold back, non-huggers who hug reluctantly and those who deflect the potential for physical contact at the risk of bodily harm. And now, thanks to the Internet, there are non-huggers in real life who can be (((huggers))) in their virtual lives.

It's so confusing. Before I had kids I was completely in the no-hug, jump-over-a-cliff-to-avoid-public-displays-of-affection camp. After kids, and with the help of the Internet, however, I'm much less likely to bolt into traffic to avoid one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When the 'other man' is a baby

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach – the host of TLC’s "Shalom in the Home" and author of "Kosher Sex" - contends in a Beliefnet essay that breastfeeding’s benefits to infants aren’t worth their costs to a marriage. During a recent show, he advises that a mother’s obsession with breastfeeding created a carnal sin in her marriage, which he claims was putting someone else before her spouse - her son.

Boteach sidesteps the fact that breastfeeding isn’t the same as adultery by insisting that it doesn’t really matter, as the feeling of infidelity is similar when a woman takes her breast from her husband to give to a child.

"The crisis we face in America isn’t undernourished children it’s undernourished marriages," he states in the essay, affirming nursing babies should be secondary to nursing carnal relationships.

Boteach says what we refuse to admit is that breastfeeding de-eroticizes the female body, specifically as it pertains to public breastfeeding.

He suggests that women cover up, not only when they are in public but also at home so that husbands don’t witness "one of the most attractive parts of her body serving as a utilitarian rather than romantic purpose."

He further suggests that men shouldn’t watch the birth process itself too closely lest the romantic nether regions be reduced to a "mere birth canal."

So much for the miracle of life.

I’m sure there are a lot of people waiting in the wings with pitchforks after reading such incendiary sentiments. I’m not really one of them.

He is, after all, a controversial guy. He's a rabbi without a synagogue and a man whose livelihood and popularity depend on television ratings, which usually means controversy.

Did I mention he's got nine kids to feed?

Not that that really matters.

In some small way he’s not wrong.

Women do have to stop and make time for men. They often have to do so mindfully. Lactation doesn't make women better parents than men, and it doesn't give them a free pass to ignore the family, which INCLUDES the man.

Marriages do change (some say "suffer") after the birth of children. These tiny versions of humans require a lot of care and attention. And no matter how much they are loved and wanted, these little packages aren’t always what we expect. It can throw everyone for a loop. Women can feel overburdened with their new roles and men can feel replaced or potentially unnecessary. Communication can break down and be difficult to repair. All true.

I just find it hard to believe that breastfeeding (or any single event after the saying of vows short of actual infidelity) is the likeliest culprit of marital demise.

And if it is, I would guess the real problem tracks more directly to the fact that the woman married an exceedingly immature guy.

For me ...

and this next part can be wedged into the Too Much Information category so be forewarned …

… breasts have NEVER been located in an erogenous zone. The fact that men have on occasioned looked at them in lascivious ways doesn’t make me aroused in the least. Not to mention the pre-baby pain of cysts and other tenderness? Hands. Off. Please. But that’s me, and I suppose Boteach doesn’t really care what I, or women like me, think or want.

When I had children my breasts changed – physically and philosophically - in ways that were not only meaningful but also beautiful. And that changed how I felt about my body and its evolving purpose. I can never see them in such a sophomoric way again.

Also time, regardless of childbearing, stands still for no one. It ravages bodies.

As Boteach counsels men to not look at their wives when they give birth or when they nurse their children, he’s not really protecting their manhood or their marriage; he’s merely protecting an over-inflated sexual ego, something that may not be as real and the baby it helped produce.

He's also ignoring future pleasures of the flesh. What about when she's thicker around the middle or not as firm? Will this man who needed to avert his eyes from the miracle of life be there when the prospect of death is near?

It seems to me that anyone who has to protect eroticism from its natural results rather than adapt to new pleasures, is unlikely to be able to go happily or gracefully into old age.

At the very least, it would seem as if the good rabbi is protecting the male of the species from having to rethink his purpose in life.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Starbucks (totally) delivers

I stopped by Starbucks today, thinking I'd treat myself to a mocha.

My heart started to race when the girl behind the counter asked for my name.

See, there are thousands of photos on flickr that evidence the butchering of names Starbucks' baristas write on cups. But no one has EVER asked for my name. I've even been to stores where the line extends near the door. They just seem to muddle through in order while people quietly wait their turn. No one ever jumps line and snags a drink that wasn't meant for to them despite the missing name, misspelled or not.

But here I was. ... the ONLY person in line and they were asking for my name.

Finally! I get to upload a photo of my name butchered on a wax-lined cup!

Then the air came out of my sails. She asked how I spell it.

I spelled it out: S. I. O. B. H. A. N.

Starbucks delivers 26/365

When I saw the V where the B should be, I swear-to-god, it made my day.

*I'm still at it ... a picture a day for the next year. Check out my progress here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lighter than air


She spends a lot of time in her room these days.

It's not a punishment. Quite the opposite: It's her sanctuary.

Her room, a bismuth pink explosion with a smattering of hard-won dots, is the one place her brother isn't allowed without her permission.

There she can play with her dollhouse and her collection of tiny toys, which bobble their heads in mute understanding as she babels to them their roles in her intriciate tales of adventure.

A few days ago my father visited and he went upstairs to quietly intrude on her "alone time." It had been a while since he'd seen her and grand parent time, as most of us know, is precious.

He could hear her voice chattering happily as he climbed the stairs, though he couldn't make out all the words. Something about jumping tall cliffs and wearing long skirts ... perhaps ... He couldn't quite make it out.

He knocked on her door, announced himself and walked in ...

Her room seemed empty.

"Where are you?" he asked an instant before he realized she must be playing behind the three-story doll house in the corner of her room.

"I'm up in the air, papa. I'm up in the air."

Friday, January 22, 2010

A girl's gotta have dreams

There's a guy in our town who makes the most incredible snowmen ... well, they're snow sculptures really. He started making them a few years ago on the front lawn of his bed and breakfast.

This year they seemed to have left his lawn and moseyed on through town showing up in the village square, on the bank lawn, even on several properties where For Sale signs have been posted.

Cats, rabbits, lions, dogs, dragons ... we're always amazed by what he creates out of piles of frozen precipitation.

We built a snowman a few weeks back. But because the snow was only a couple inches deep, our snowman's body was breaded in dirt, mulched leaves and pine needles that had been sprinkled liberally all over the lawn. We topped it with spiky hair made with the help of brick forms.

Even the kids thought it was pitiful.

Two days ago, however, our pathetic snowman -- who seemed to have gotten dirtier as the days of its life wore on -- fell over and now looks like a lonely old drunk after a three-week binge.

The kids were thrilled.

Only their thrilled sounded slightly similar to horror.

ITTYBIT & THE CHAMP: "OH! The snowman fell over! The NO-MAN FELL OBER!!!"

MOMMY: "Don't worry, we can build another ... I hear there's snow in the forecast."

ITTYBIT: "Oh ... We don't have to build another one, Mommy," Ittybit explained. "Pretty soon the snowman man will get to our house, I just know it."

And no matter what I say to the contrary, she just goes on believing. A girl's got to have dreams.



Peint O Gwrw Pub is having its annual Foods Based on a Dare night. … That’s NOT what it’s called but that’s what it amounts to as the Scottish-style pub in the heart of Chatham raises a toast to the bard Robert Burns tonight (Friday, Jan. 22) from 7 to 11 p.m. Revelers will be treated to haggis, blood pudding and a shot of Scotch on the house whether their wearing plaid or not. King of the Forrest will entertain. Call 392-BEER for more information.


The Kinderhook Elks Lodge and Eat for a Cause will co-host a “Soup Line” on Saturday, Jan. 23, from noon to 3 p.m. to benefit local food pantries. Soups by local soup aficionados will be offered and judged. Admission is $5 plus $10 worth of donated food items. Those wishing to make and donate soup for the event are invited to call 392-5723. Soups can be prepared on premises at the lodge.

Eagle Mills Christian Church, 500 Brunswick Road, Corner of Rt. 2 Maple Avenue, Troy, is hosting a clam chowder dinner on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. Who could say no to creamy, clammy goodness served corn bread, salad and biscuits? Ok, maybe the lactose intolerant, but the church has you covered with Manhattan-style as well as New England chowders. Cost is $8 per person eat in or take out. For more information, call 279-1588.


The Schenectady Museum and Planetarium has the perfect thing for the 10-year-old computer geek in all of us: A special workshop on computer game development presented by area game makers, Vicarious Visions, the creators of Guitar Hero III, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, Transformers Autobots and more. Game designers will lead one hour-long workshops from 12:30 to 3:30 on Saturday, featuring game tuning and tweaking values, elements designers use to make a game feel right. For ages 10 and up. Space is limited so register in advance by calling 382.7890 x 224. Fees are $10 for members, $15 for non members.

Younger geeks might like the workshop The Children’s Museum of Science and Technology has going on this Saturday: The Chemistry of Toys. Participants will make their own form of Silly Putty, GAK and more as they explore the science behind playthings. Recommended for ages 5 and up, the workshop is free for members, and $2 for non-members plus museum admission.


The Annual Winter Festival at Grafton Lakes State Park gets underway before the crack of dawn Saturday. Pry yourself out of bed, grab some coffee and go ice fishing; contest begins at 5 a.m. Normal family activities, including kids’ contests, interactive displays, live native animals and sleigh rides begin at a respectable 11 a.m. and run through 4 p.m. Free.

Clermont State Historic Site will host its annual sledding party (safety sleds only) on Jan. 24 from noon to 3 p.m. Events include bonfire, snowman contest and refreshments. $2 per person. (Snow date for this event is Feb. 7.)


Time and Space Limited, 434 Columbia St., Hudson, will host a two-day film acting workshop hosted by acclaimed casting director Aleta Chappelle on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days.
Chappelle has cast numerous film and television productions, working with Francis Ford Coppola and Martha Coolidge, among others. Work sessions will cover audition technique, cold reading technique, improvisation and "On Camera" acting technique. The workshop is open to seriously interested teens, young adults and adults. The full $60 workshop fee must be paid in advance. For more information, contact

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random Question Thursday

men and their remotes

Do you and your significant other fight over control of the remote?

He says I have clicker envy.

I say he has .. uhm ... issues. ...

But our battles over television viewing usually ends in a win for the pocketsapiens: something cartoon-ish always prevails.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where are our priorities?

I saw this sign and laughed and laughed. ...

I know the erectors of this lovely little piece of alloy metal were saving this space for some shiny, new hybrid vehicle; a car that points to its owner and says: I am environmentally conscious. I am saving the planet.

But I parked there anyway.

I figure my somewhat economic, emissions-tested-and-approved car (which rolled off the assembly line during the second Bush administration) gets about a third less per tank full than a previous car of the same make and model that I owned during the Clinton administration. Not that I'm drawing any political conclusions, but I will say that the Clinton car got nearly the same mileage per gallon as its fraternal twin, the hybred model, that my mother-in-law bought three years ago.

I'm also factoring in the energy resources used to turn out the cars of the future -- since my car, being old and all, has probably already paid for its production hogishness.

I parked with a clear conscience.

Well, there was also the fact that the only other cars in the lot at the time were sport utility vehicles. But that's really beside the point.

I'm sure someone will eventually complain that my junkbox of a vehicle is taking up space reserved for their shiny new evironmental accessory.

But I'll just tell them people who REALLY care about the environment will ride their bikes. They can park in the bike rack right by the door.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How can you tell if a toy competition has been rigged?

Still the best toy evah!

If the top winner is something other than a cardboard box.

This lil' number -- which has finally been retired as our keeper of Christmas ornaments going on 10 years -- in just one hour this morning has also been a puppy, a bulldozer, a rocket ship AND a sandcastle.

Monday, January 18, 2010

True then, true now

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

Martin Luther King Jr.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Great expectations

I’ve recounted here the story of how I became a mother, for both the first and second time, in all of its gory detail.

If my great grandmother was alive, the namesake of my firstborn, she’d have corrected me loud and clear (she was 102 when she died and only a smidgeon deaf) that my babies “weren’t born, they were hatched.”

I wouldn’t have been offended.

But I'm sure there's someone out there who would have been.

Seems as though there has always been consternation concerning the C.

Many will tell you hospitals are performing cesareans far too often; some will tell you it’s ethical for women to choose surgery first; a few will tell you the medical profession has ruined the miracle of birth for women and others will say that lawyers ruined it for everyone.

Now, it seems, a few folks are likening cesarean sections to rape, saying that they weren’t given a choice. Doctors forcibly, or through coercion or lies, entered their bodies to remove their children, robbing them of a natural birth and leaving them with more than just bikini-line scars but psychological damage akin to sufferers of post traumatic stress.

I might have written these vocal few off as crackpots looking for attention, but their stories are compelling and familiar.

I suppose I could have been one of them.

Long before my doctor came into the labor room to tell me she thought it was “time to go in and get that baby,” I had endured more than 24 hours of mishandling in some form or other.

There was 9 a.m. ultrasound that lasted until 3 p.m. … No food. No water. In between I was forgotten on an examination table for more than an hour. The doctor who forgot me, returned and abraded the amniotic membrane without explaining why, or what I could expect. Once at the hospital I received so much fluid by the time it was all over I was blind from corneal swelling. I didn’t recognize my own body. I weighed more than I had while pregnant, though a few days later I weighed less than I had in high school.

As I recovered in the hospital, I was angry and disappointed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This wasn’t what I’d prepared for. I didn’t know how to prepare for this.

After I got home my belly scars healed quickly to a thin, silvery line.

We both smiled, my doctor and me, as she examined my progress six weeks later. My baby, happy and healthy, asleep in my arms.

The second time, though elective, wasn't as pretty. My skin didn't heal as well, in fact it was somewhat gory for weeks. Once the incision closed it grew over with "proud flesh" that had to be burned off with acid in a series of weekly office visits. Nerve pain kept me virtually incapacitated for nearly two months.

I accepted this pain as I accepted my son. With fear and gratitude.

Thing is … what I’ve come to accept is that what happened to me wasn’t medical malpractice. It was my inexperience coupled with a doctor's horrific communication skills. The events that took place in my case the first time – the abrading of the membrane, the induction of labor, the decision to surgically intervene – were protocol and warranted.

But as a patient relying on a doctor to make that diagnosis I am at a disadvantage. There's always something a doctor leaves out, something you don't know to ask or something they don't think to tell. There's a decison based on any number of factors they may not have time to tell you, and there are always the possibility of mistakes.

When you have a c-section, or any surgical intervention, there’s a part of you that always wonders if it was really necessary. I’ve chosen to believe mine was, and I’ve chosen to remember the details with some degree of awe.

Others may not have my ability to suspend disbelief, I realize.

For them the trauma is catastrophic and insurmountable.

But rape and birth trauma are not comparable. Doctors don't force their will on patients for perverse pleasure. Their decisions are not easy. Do they wait and risk a life? Two lives? How much time do they have to explain it? How much choice does a mother really have when time is finite?

There is little doubt some doctors are better than others in their bedside manner. Improving communication should be a part of their continuting education. Patients, likewise, have got to be their own best advocate. They have to learn what questions they need to ask and how to ask them.

All births are different. All experiences are different. None are easy.

I was not alone in my experience.

My husband was just as afraid and even more horrified by what he saw; the amount of blood that was spilt on the floor of the operating room. Yet he chooses to remember the moment my doctor lifted up our daughter, and he became a dad.

We know we were lucky.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't worry, Earthlings

his laser is set to stun

His laser is set to "stun."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Random (three-part) Question Thursday

What a coincidence that National Delurking Day - one day per annum when bloggers around the country beg, plead and pester their silent readers into leaving some warm and fuzzy comments to bolster the stats - falls on my newly reinstated Random Question Thursdays - one of 52 days per year that I do the same.

So here it is, the random question of the week, now in three-part harmony:

If a movie were made of your life, what would be its plot, who would direct it and which actor would play you?

I'm thinking the movie about my life is really just a series of still photographs detailing every waking, sleeping (and sleep-waking) moment of a woman who only leaves the house to go to work, which, when put together in a slide-show format to music of Ace of Base, confuses and repels the four people who pay to see the production.

It is directed by a promising art student at a local community college, who opts to shoot it in black and white, and who ultimately gets a job as assistant manager at Starbucks.

Oh ... but get this: Mary Stuart Masterson plays me because my husband bumps into her at the Post Office (really happened) and when he finally tells me he met her there three weeks later (also really happened) I stake out the post office hoping to bump into her, too, (hasn't happened) and stammer some really embarrassing drivel about loving her in "Some Kind of Wonderful," (which may happen should I ever accidentally meet her at said post office). Cut to chase: She takes pity on me, thinks it will be quite a challenge to play the part of a stammering idiot and accepts the role.

Needless to say ... four people will demand thier money back at the box office.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Try finding common sense in schools these days ... soon there will be no community there either

It’s been years since schools have allowed kids to share their food.

It’s just not safe, they say.

Too many kids with allergies, health conditions, cooties.

Don’t want to spread cooties in a year marked by Swine Flu.

I can understand that.

But it would seem as if the New York state Department of Health, if local televised news reports are to be believed, has issued some kind of recommendation that schools adopt policies to ban foods for mass consumption that haven’t been prepared in commercial kitchens or that aren’t packaged with FDA approved labels.

In short: The cupcakes grandma bakes from scratch for Ittybit’s class birthday party will be contraband if our school district jumps on the Play-it-Safe/Stupid bandwagon.

I suppose it makes sense if you are deluded enough to believe pre-packaged foods can keep us all safe from food-borne pathogens or have rock-solid evidence of potential allergens.

Of course one would think wisdom would trickle down to places purportedly purveying education. Not so, evidently.

One local school district -- *cough, Johnstown, cough* -- jumped on the Better Safe than Sorry bandwagon last month and banned homemade foods for class consumption, claiming that processed food was healthier for students with diabetes and allergies because the ingredients were known and the kitchens presumably are inspected.

Good grief.

I know I’ll sleep better knowing the kid with diabetes is eating a cupcake made in a Hostess laboratory and that the kid with peanut allergies can say an unequivocal "NO" to the Peanut M&M Cookie because "May Contain Peanuts" is clearly marked on the wrapper.

We like our eggs white ... white is pure.

We like our bread white. ... again, safe.

And we trust Big Business over Mom and Pop.

Of course, it doesn’t matter that independent testing of commercially made foods reveals rampant mislabeling. It doesn’t matter that most nutritionists think processed foods – packed with salt and additives – probably added to our obesity predicament. It doesn't matter that beef from factory farms has to be injected with ammonia to make it safe for human consumption, and even then claims of beef safety are overstated. Hamburger is still being served up in schools (by ladies wearing plastic gloves and puffy hair nets) all around the country.

BUT that Mom is shifty, I tell you. Can't trust her.

What seems clear enough is that legal ramification and not any genuine concern for the health or wellbeing of students is the real issue at stake.

What makes me believe this you ask?

Two things:

First, news reports quote school officials as indicating homemade treats will still be allowed for sale at fundraising events where parents are present and off-site consumption is likely. (I suppose no one would dare cut into the profit margin for the senior class trip or the new cheerleading uniforms just for some pesky calorie count or FDA kitchen inspection).

And secondly: have you seen what some schools serve as lunch in their cafeterias? Mozzarella sticks as a main course? Really? Most choices have more fat than protein and more salt than taste (I'm just guessing on that last assessment. Parents just get menus to read not the FDA-approved labels).

It pains me that people making decisions that affect schools, and by extension communities, aren’t using their brains when they think.

I'm not sure this kind of decision-making is worth a knock-down, drag-out fight, but I think it shouldn't slither in without comment.

Common sense is appearing more and more uncommon these days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The enforcer

I wonder if she can get the kids to sleep in their own rooms?

I know. She's not THAT intimidating.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The green-eyed monster pops up

The Champ came home from the babysitter's house last week bearing a rocket ship exploding from a construction paper sky with the aid of a tiny accordion of paper pasted to the back.

"I made diss!"


So ingenious, just the sight of it made Ittybit jealous.

Of course it could have been the fact that I framed it to hang in his room ... someday ...

But whatever made her green with envy it was recitifed today when she got home from school and told me she wanted to make a pop-up princess that I could then frame for her room.

Only ... we didn't have construction paper. We didn't even have white bond for the the printer.

But we did have fancy-dancy paper I'd bought for some project I never endeavored ...


So, without further ado ... a pop-up princess suitable for framing:

1. Cut out shapes.
2. Paste shapes to folded pieces of paper.
3. Paste folded pieces of paper to backround paper.

4. Color.
5. Accessorize.

6. Voila.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Opening a window on a world of pain

Whenever I read or hear some wonk pontificate on how the Internet, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Flickr, or fill-in-the-social networking-blank du jour is bad, good or indifferent you can pretty much bet that I got a big old eye-roll going on.

I can’t help myself. When some naysayer talks about how Twitter is a useless tool and some cheerleader talks about how the world will certainly never again need another means of communication beyond the tweet, I wonder: "Why rush to predict the future? Time will tell."

I probably shouldn’t feel this way. I’ve written often about real friendships I’ve made with virtual strangers after I opened up a window to my life in Flickr. I’ve learned to temper knee-jerk opinions of new applications, and wait to see if they fly, like Twitter seems to have done or flop like a previously praised private social network that shall go unnamed.

But it’s been difficult.

The internet has wedged me into this place. I want to sing its praises while protecting myself from its potential for harm: which as far as I can tell is a virtual sense of belonging in a place of actual isolation.

A woman stopped me on the street a few years ago as I was taking a quiet stroll with my newborn son to ask me what I thought of the neighborhood. She was thinking of moving. I was chatty and told her everything that filled my head. She asked if there were good mothers’ support groups locally. There were, I said, but I couldn’t tell her if they were any good because their schedules (smack dab in the middle of the day through the school year) didn’t jibe with mine (working days, full time and on maternity leave in the summer).

I found all the support I needed online, I told her.

She winced. She was a psychologist whose interest and study had been exclusively on mothers. She didn’t believe virtual hugs could take the place of real people.

I suppose I just shrugged. Some other psychologist somewhere, I imagine, would disagree with her and prove just the opposite with their own empirical data, or just more hyperbole crafted to resemble research.

‘Round and ‘round we go.

Of course, all that was before my beloved moms’ group collapsed under the weight of its growing membership; before it imploded in a storm of bad feelings and even worse communication.

A year later, I visit Twitter several times a day. I look at the lines of text and click on links. There’s always something to laugh at, something to admire, something to make a person think. There’s also something to make a person cry: There’s a diagnosis, a death, a struggle, a loss. There are prayers sought and given quickly.

I don’t know what to make of it now. I suppose it adds to the pain of existence; adds to the anxiety of getting through the day. I suppose it also proves we, as a society, still have the capacity for compassion for people we don’t really know. Sometimes.

Other times it underscores mob mentality; it seems to circumvent basic compassion. Yet, if you think about it, that happens everywhere. Friends in real life divorce and circles of support change. People move on, die, have difficulties. Real life isn’t any easier. Maybe that's the point some would make. Easy isn't necessisarily good for us.

I don’t know what any of it means. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, I just know that here, there and everywhere it is difficult to be indifferent.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

(Another installment of) Random Question Thursday

"Oh sure," you say, "she returns to Random Question Thursday with a load of garbage!"

Not that the whole thing isn't a load of garbage ... BUT I digress ...

Oh, you are mistaken, dear readers. This isn't garbage, it's recycling.

And from the evidence I present here, *SEE PIZZA BOXES* I'm guessing the last time I dragged it curbside was prior to Ittybit's birthday in mid-December.

So. ... What chore has you dragging your feet?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here's a 21st Century Epiphany for you ...


We are still finding ways to replace Wise Men with machines.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Weighed ... 37 pounds.

Measured ... 42 inches.


A paper robe with a plastic ribbon to tie it closed was waiting for her in the exam room.

I was wondering when it would happen. Annabel has officially reached the age of modesty though modesty has just barely reached her.

On our way to her sixth-year physical, she had asked me if the doctor was female. She was relieved when I said she was. She wasn't relieved when I answered "I don't know" to her next question: "Will there be shots?"

There were shots. Two. She doesn't handle shots well. It's always a force-her-into-it situation. 'We hurt you to help you' isn't an easy concept to grasp at any age. Parsing necessary hurts will be our tiresome chore for a lifetime. Another concept we struggle to understand.

She admitted afterward that the shot really wasn't that bad after all. Over and done with in two blinks. That's how these things work. Regardless, the pain is a part of us now. Something we take and share wherever we go. A battle scar we admire and detest. "All day long I was saying 'ow, ow, ow,' mommy. I told everyone I think that doctor switched my shots. Gave me bad ones."

"It wasn't that bad. They gave you two stickers and let you keep the robe," I tell her, wishing a paper dress could actually be a comfort.


Monday, January 4, 2010

One a day

You've seen this look before, right?

It is usually a warning.

Heed the warning and you might be safe.

Ignore it and you might be nursing some pretty deep wounds.

But sometimes a look like that isn't a warning at all. Sometimes it's just a moment caught in time and out of context.

That's how I'm starting my New Year's resolution (the one I didn't intend to make). I'm taking a picture a day for the next year.

I guess the idea is that in 365 days ... in 365 pictures ... my life will flash before my eyes.

I invite you to join in or follow along for the next 361 days.

I must say at least it should be worth a laugh. Who else starts out their year-long project by putting a *scarf on a cat*?

*It is for a good cause, though - OFA fundraising project.