Friday, September 29, 2006

The Poop Chair

The temperature today began at about 60 degrees so we threw open the doors and windows to catch a cross-breeze. Fresh air. Wipe out the doldrums in the house, and diffuse the smell of paint and dust from remodeling.

Never you mind about my swollen eyes and burning nose.

We sat happily at the table, coloring. Patience, as usual, drew an elaborate picture-story. Today, hers was all about her adventure in Care Bear Land with Wish Bear and Twinkers (yes, big fan of Care Bears' Big Wish Movie). She had herself floating on a cloud, surrounded by shooting stars and hearts. My favorite part has to be the bright green fireflies, flying with lighted streaks.

Persistance isn't much past the scribble stage but she did an admirable job of making the school calendar in this month's newsletter much more colorful and interesting.

I reveled in the fact that My Plan was Working: we were Bonding! Having Fun! Doing Good Things! In other words, no mischief or naughtiness, I mean excitement or adventure. Best of all, Persistance had ceased That Noise, the Great Big Noisy Fuss that she has had on constantly since umm Wednesday.

Suddenly, Persistance stood up in her chair.

"Sit down, Miss Pers," I said, "Be safe and sit down."

"Beeeee AHHHHH!" she told me.

"I hear you," I said, "But you need to sit down to be safe."

"Uhhhh UUUUHHHHHH!" she insisted.

I took a closer look. "Ah ha," I said, "You took off your diapah. You have bare bum!"

"BUM!" she said triumphantly, grabbing the body part under discussion. "DIAPAH! NO!"

Then she pointed to the chair, "MINE!"

"Your chair," I agreed.

She giggled, a little too...coquetishly. I squinted my eyes at her. She squinted back.


I stood up, walked around the table, peered down.

And I saw it.


In the chair.

Under my standing, naked toddler's bum.

She giggled again.

I now heard the distinction between B and P when she reiterated, "MIIINNNEEE POOOOOO!"

"No sit 'ere!" she announced.

"I guess not," I agreed, shoulders slumping as I considered the mess, and where to begin."

"MAMA, 'oot!" She declared, sticking out her foot, which had stepped in the poo.

As good a place to begin as any, I decided. Carrying her by the armpits, we headed to the bathroom.

I thought, "I know what road good intentions pave," and mentally giggled.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Meet My Brother: A Sister's Story of Love and Autism

There is a long history behind this book and why it is so important to me. I'll try to make it brief. My husband and I are planners---well, I am at least and he's happy to have someone planning. Our life plan for children was: get married, wait five years, then have a boy and then a girl. Just like that. HA! Said God. HA! HA! HA! Said God. We spent many harrowing years with our main identity as Infertile. During this journey, I was incredibly fortunate to meet some absolutely amazing people who remain good friends to this day.

One friend in particular had a journey longer than mine, that required many more passports. She was blessed with two precious children---a boy, then a girl. Her beautiful boy stuck out to her as unique in some way. In his way, he kept trying to tell her something about himself, and lucky for him, she was listening. He was eventually diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder---Not Otherwise Specified. From the beginning, she wrote me detailed emails about her son, and their new journey along the autism spectrum.

From the side, through her words, I experienced worrying that something might be wrong with a precious child, and then wondering what is wrong: tests, more tests, close-minded doctors, close-minded or misguided although well-meaning family and friends, more tests, wrong diagnoses, wrong treatments and medications, tentative diagnoses, more tests, more specialists, and more treatment. Through her words, I experienced how it feels to juggle life, and two children, one of whom is special needs. Through her words, I learned how it felt to have nasty and judgmental comments hurled at you and your child, who bears an albatross no stranger can know, because it isn’t stamped on his beautiful features in any way. He carries his challenge inside. Through her words, I learned much about the autism spectrum, and what it is like---and what it isn't like---to live with a child who is challenged by it. Simply through her words.

Words are powerful: they educate, and challenge readers to empathize. That’s why her words, and her book, are so important to me. It added experience and through that, understanding, and the potential for kindness and outreach to children and people I might not have known how to interact with before.

And answer to a Call to Action about issues and topics in our world, I bring you my friend Gina Pintar’s words about parenting a child with pervasive developmental disorder.

The following is the introduction she wrote to her fantastic book---which I am publishing soon---written from the point of view of her daughter, who shares what autism can be, and what it can mean to a sibling.

After her words, if you stick around, I’ll share some facts.

A note from the Author

Why I Wrote This Story

“My dear seems like yesterday that you came into my life. You have made every day a great day ever since. Your smile wakes me up in the morning.”

While my heart feels this way about my son, some days, my feet drag with the fatigue that comes with handling a special needs child. In addition to all of the usual craziness a parent faces, I take my son for different treatments with different specialists practically every day. He bears his chelation, physical, occupational, speech and other therapies, as well as his ongoing tests and doctor visits, with strength, and they are worth it to us both because of the positive effect it all has on his symptoms and behavior.

My son plays soccer (which I coach!), enjoys swimming and playgrounds, loves his favorite TV shows, giggles with and torments his little sister...all the things your children do.

But, he’s also different. The “extras” and the “differences” can be challenging. Even more challenging are the incorrect assumptions, myths, and fear my son and I face with people out in the world.

I wrote this book because I want to educate parents and children about what they are really seeing when they see my son, and to reassure them that he is, at heart, just a kid too.

Not all children who have meltdowns in public are spoiled and undisciplined. Some have a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), which is the umbrella that covers the spectrum of autistic disorders.

These can cause children to be over or under sensitive to things in the world we might not even notice. As in the book, sometimes this causes a PDD child to act out in response to the situation and stimuli. Like any parent, I try to anticipate a meltdown and I try and do all I can to stop it or limit it but it is not always possible. It is also many times not possible for the child to just stop.

We don’t know what causes PDD. Kids might be born with it, or born with the potential to get it. But we do know it’s not a mental illness. And let me promise you that I haven’t caused it through bad or indulgent parenting. My son’s symptomatic behavior isn’t misbehavior or rebellion, and his tantrums aren’t a sign he is spoiled. He isn’t unruly or dangerous; he’s got PDD.

I also want to help children better understand a child with a PDD. I want other kids to play with my son and not be afraid of him. He can be and wants to be your friend.

I wrote the book from the sister’s point of view to best explain what other children see when they see a child with a PDD, and also because my son’s condition affects his sister.

I hope this book gives an insight into our world, especially into my son. I hope it provides reassurance that children with one of the PDDs are just kids, too. I hope it reassures you if you had any questions or concerns about a child with this who you know, or who might be in your child’s class or on your local playground. I hope you feel like it is okay to get to know the child, and his parents.

Thank you!

Quick Facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder:

• About 1 in 166 people are born with autism (Centers for Disease Control Prevention, 2004)
• About 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism
• U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies believe that autism is growing 10-17% per year
• Nobody knows why, for sure, that it is increasing
• Boys are four times more likes than girls to have autism
• Otherwise, it has no bias. It might affect any family in the world, regardless of race, ethnicity, social boundaries, family income, lifestyle, or educational levels
• Autistic children can improve with treatment, but there is no cure. It’s a disorder, not a disease.

True or not true?

People with autism can’t hug or show love. Not true. It might not be like a person without autism, and might take more time. But people with autism can give and receive love and affection.

People with autism never look anyone in the eye. Not true. Sometimes they might not, and it might be less than typical, but people with autism can look other people in the eye.

People with autism are mentally challenged. Not true. It’s true that autism presents a challenge, but it is an information processing and sensory integration challenge. People with autism can be very smart and do well in school and life, just like you. In fact, most high-functioning autistics test as average or above average. Some do test below, but as with all people, it’s a spectrum.

Different diets, growing up, and medication can cure autism. Not true. Autism is a disorder, and so it has no cure. However, with proper diet and treatment, the person might show less autistic symptoms.

Some autistic people use sign language. True. Many people with autism develop language skills (talk) but some use sign language or picture cards, or some alternative method of communicating.

Sometimes smells, sounds and touch really hurt a person with autism. True. The Autism Society of America explains it like this:
For most of us, the integration of our senses helps us to understand what we are experiencing. For example, our sense of touch, smell and taste work together in the experience of eating a ripe peach: the feel of the peach’s skin, its sweet smell, and the juices running down your face. For children with autism, sensory integration problems are common, which may throw their senses off they may be over or under active. The fuzz on the peach may actually be experienced as painful and the smell may make the child gag. Some children with autism are particularly sensitive to sound, finding even the most ordinary daily noises painful. Many professionals feel that some of the typical autism behaviors, like the ones listed above, are actually a result of sensory integration difficulties.

Many thanks to the Autism Society of America for the information on their web site, which helped us with our information.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Color me confuzzled by this outcry over modesty

(Let me begin with a sort of apologetic caveat. I'm a big proponent of calling body parts by their proper names. But I'm also still a little gunshy due to the infestation of pervs after the whole "girls" thing. So, I'm going to sorta kinda use some euphemisms and hope you forgive me. Please understand that while I do know the proper names and am not afraid to say them out loud, even to my kids, who are definitely not afraid to say them out loud, even to their grandparents---I don't think Grandpa has recovered from being told he has a penis but no vagina---I am too afraid to use the actual words in my blog.)

Does it strike you that somewhere along the way---again? still?---some people got confused about the difference between modest and prudish? And who, what, when, where, why and how their ideas apply?

It strikes me that way, yes indeedy it does. It's been a sort of trend when I look back. I am going to call it the Mistaken Modesty Movement (MMM) because I like naming things.

And today I got cause to look back. I saw catalysts and causalities of the MMM in the US.

See, I have this dogpile gang theory of life.

Let me apply it specifically here to this modesty issue and show you what I mean.

Here is my very humble opinion:

Most people want to be a part of something larger than themselves. This is cool.

When they join a gang, it is not.

Most people find that by being a part of something larger than themselves, they can work towards a goal more powerfully and more effectively, with an increased likelihood of success. This is cool.

When they bully and trample other people and other people's rights to do this, it is not.

Many people enjoy being exposed to many ideas, theories, and pieces of information about life, and the pursuit of a good one.

Most people find that when they come together to discuss and explore these concepts, they gain a richer understanding, many points of view to ponder, and can then formulate a personal conclusion. This is cool.

When instead they come together and decide to group think, it is not.

The Mistaken Modesty Movement of which I speak is a gang of this “not cool” ilk. They are, I think, simply a vocal minority, who for some reason seem to have all sorts of people running scared, or worse, reacting. It’s a funny phenomenon that is going on right now: A vocal minority at the end of the spectrum managing to push through and achieve an extreme conservative agenda. I can only understand it by applying the dogpile gang theory of one person feeling emboldened by the feeling that they have a gang who will dogpile on an issue with them.

In turn, this makes the Person to Whom the Agenda is aimed at feel ganged up on, possibly even fearful. The person likely mistakes loudness, passion and implied "more people like me" to mean that the Agenda is bigger and more important than it really is, potentially creating an out of proportion reaction and response to the issue.

In this case, the Mistaken Modesty Movement wants to ensure that…well, goodness, I’m not sure.

Because I’m really confused by this erratic, and inconsistent recent outcry for modesty.

See, "modest" as a guideline is about as subjective as it gets in the world. The dictionary refers you to "decent," which refers you back to modest, but does concede that it probably involves some really individual idea of, "standards of propriety, good taste, or morality."

As a general rule, when out and about in public, we typically agree to have the Adam and Eve bits covered, even if only with Adam and Eve style minimalism (love those leafy covers). As I understand it, the rest is mainly up to you.

This empowers each of us individually to decide for ourselves what we perceive as modest and decent and appropriate---now here is where it gets tricky because the following phrase is key to me---for ourselves.

Let me say that again: for ourselves.

There is no Universal Standard of Decency that we've all agreed to, signed into law, and are obligated to follow as a condition of continued residency---other than out in public cover those Adams and Eves. In fact, the US is pretty open as far as clothing laws go. Indecent exposure is variable practically by decade. Its definition has changed at least twice in my lifetime alone.

One thing that is definitely not considered indecent exposure is breastfeeding. In fact, not only are there no laws or rules prohibiting breastfeeding, there are in fact rules and laws protecting a woman's right to breastfeed.

With her actual, attached to her body, lactating BREASTS. That is to say---to avoid those pervs---the sisters out in front.

As you know, the sisters out in front are not merely impediments to track and field, or ways to catch the eye of the boy at the bar. They have a real biological function called lactating. This means: make milk. With which to feed an infant.

Now, in the typical ingenuity of the multi-task female, not only do the sisters have an important biological function, but they also have a secondary business function. I think we all have heard the Boob Principle of Advertising: flash some and it will sell. This philosophy is Marketing 2000 B.C.

Therefore, it seems to be generally no cause for conversation when the sisters are in service to the God of Marketing, crying out Lust! Admire Me! BUY ME and I can be yours!

However, when the sisters are in service to---as my friend Halushki says---the Adorable Siphon, it seems to generate Large Cause for Concern.

Case in point:

This image---one I think you’ll agree is fairly typical/common, with the clothing or accessories strategically falling to hit that edge of allowable exposure--- graced a national magazine with no large outcry, and no demand for its removal from the shelf:

As you can see, the sisters out front are doing nothing more than holding up a beaded necklace---which in my humble opinion is fine. Hey, my sisters barely hold up anything, including themselves; in fact, every day they ask to be held up by a bra with substantial support. So perk? I admire thee. And fondly recall when my sisters out front were members of Club Perky. Now, they read retirement brochures, fantasizing about the day they are no longer called into service, and can actually legitimately reside southeast and southwest, respectively, as is their preference.

This image also graced a national magazine and did in fact generate a
large outcry, demanding its removal from the shelf:

Is it just me or does this really seem to be an inconsistent double-standard?

I don't understand it.

The first photo is ALL ABOUT SEX. You can hear the Pussycat Dolls purring, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" in the background, can't you? The first photo is intended to arouse sexually.

The second photo of the infant and the little bit of flesh is meant to...well me? When I saw it? I immediately sighed, " stinking CUTE!" And I thought about how cute little suckling nurslings are, and about that milk-drunk baby face. Awwwwww. I was aroused to think fondly of my children.

So the outrage that would drive women to say things like this:

1. "I shredded it," said Gayle Ash, of Belton, Texas, in a telephone interview. "A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing. He [her thirteen year old son] didn't need to see that."

2. "I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," one person wrote.

3. "I immediately turned the magazine face down," wrote another.

4. "Gross," said a third.

Astounding. Absolutely astounding.

I had no idea women were so confused as to the purpose of their breasts.

It leads me to wonder---don't you?---what other body parts are bogglign their minds.

And this all only applies to actual human beings.

Today I got an email link to this article about a teacher being suspended and a promise to not renew her contract, effectively firing her simply because she took a group of Dallas-area fifth grade schoolchildren on a school-approved field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art. Oh…yes…right. The whole story. Okay she took the kids, this teacher with an up-to-that-point exemplary teaching history of 28 years. A child from the class apparently told his/her parent that there were nude statues and artwork in the museum, which apparently so horrified the parent that he/she filed a complaint with the school. After that, the teacher received a criticism and threat of firing from the school principal.

As with most things, I suspect there is more to the story…and we simply don’t know.

But bottom line, a parent complained about his/her child being exposed to…art. Unclothed art. At a museum.

I have no idea if this is the actual objectionable art in question, but it is at the museum in question, in the sculpture garden and those are some damn perky sisters out front, so let’s just say this is the so-called problem right here:

Shocking, isn’t it? Just appalling. At least 15 traumatized 10 year old boys. Tsk tsk.

What I really want to ask is, “Seriously? Is this a joke?”

Has the parent ever, you know, been to a museum? Actually? An art one?

Because I’ve been to many, all over the world and to a one, they have Unclothed Art.


I’ve heard of books having tape placed over “immodest elements” and markers drawing out words and photos that are “immodest.” In private schools.

It sends a shudder down my spine, every time, this Mistaken Modesty Movement.

Puritanical times weren’t the good old days. They burned witches back then, for one thing.

I’m tempted to wear a Xena-style breastplate tomorrow, with a flap for breastfeeding, of course. What do you think?

By Julie Pippert
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Friday, September 22, 2006

Confessions of a loving mommy

Sometimes at night, after they are asleep, I sneak into my childrens' rooms.

I look at them: not still even in sleep, mouths agape, limbs sprawled claiming as much bed territory as possible, heads tossed back, loveys clutched in arms and stacked around their nightime nest, open hands on my older, clenched fists still on my younger.

I smoothe their hair back, kiss their temples, and whisper into each ear, "Mama loves you, you are so precious. Always. No matter what. I love you."

I think I hope that this message will seep into their subconscious and will be a truth that will hold them, strengthen them, sustain them---even if they don't know or understand what, how or why.

The hugs, cuddles and love remarks through the day bracket the discipline and correction. I worry it ends up a draw.

So I whisper into their dreams and hope it hugs their hearts like faith. Always. No matter what.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Me and Dr. Phil

Guess what?

The phone! The phone is ringing! There’s a mommy in trouble...yes a mommy in twouble...this is sewious!

Okay...clearly, I need therapy so I’m going to imagine that the Most Popular Therapist is helping me on National TV. Yes, I tend to think that airing out my problems on national TV to a viewing audience of apparently lots and lots is the way to resolve my twoubles, er, troubles.

It’s my kids.

No, really, it’s me.

Set: Dr. Phil show

Dr. Phil: Today we are going to be talking about Mothers Gone ‘Round the Bend. First up is an old mother of two young girls.

I walk out. Climb awkwardly on high stool chair, hope like hades the tummy isn’t poking out and the hair hasn’t begun to frizz.

Dr. Phil: Hello.

Me: Hi, thanks for having me. No wait, I meant, thanks for inviting me to be on the show. Hee hee I’m not a pervert. And I’m sure you’re a gentleman.

Dr. Phil, eyeroll to audience: My wife is right there. (points)

I make a little embarrassed wave to Robin. The camera flicks her way, and she smiles and laughs graciously, glad for another second of fame. The audience applauds.

Dr. Phil: Okay, so you’re here today because you feel you have gone ‘round the bend. Is that true?

Me: Yes, I mean, yes it’s true. (lick lips nervously, oh no, there goes the lipstick, now I’ll look all pale and pruny)

Dr. Phil: Which bend have you gone ‘round? Can you share?

Me: Oh the crazy one, you know, the “I’m round the bend crazy” bend?

Dr. Phil: Are you asking me or telling me?

Me: Umm, telling you, I’m telling you.

Dr. Phil: Okay, since we have that straight. (mugs to audience…gets laughter) So what drove you ‘round the bend?

Me: Not a Lexus SUV. (laughs) (no response)

Dr. Phil: You have a problem with SUVs?

Me: ummm,no, that is to say, not...I's not why I'm here. My kids. That's why I'm here. Why I'm crazy.

Dr. Phil: Your kids?

Me: Umm, right, then, that’s not fair, it’s not their fault. It’s just…their whining.

Dr. Phil: (eyebrows up two degrees)

Me: The whining?

Dr. Phil: (eyebrows up two more degrees)

Me: My whining?

Dr. Phil: And what have you got to whine about? After the break...

I shift nervously in my seat and wait the hopefully only two minutes of commercial.

Dr. Phil leans forward: You’re sabotaging my show. You’re supposed to be crazy not tongue-tied. So…a little crazy...if you please…hello, welcome back, we’re talking to a mom driven crazy by…her kids, isn’t that what you say?

Me: Well, at least this time it didn’t involve baby powder, or light bulbs and plastic food.

Dr. Phil leans forward, gets glint in eye: Now you’re sounding a bit past the bend.

Me: I am trust me I am. It is the whining. But...I’m afraid I’ll sound whiny...

Dr. Phil: Go ahead. I’ll give you thirty seconds.

Me: Okay it’s that I want no whining and they want all whining and why does there need to be so much whining I mean why do they need to whine about all stuff good and bad equally and questions...can’t they just ask a simple question in a normal tone of voice not drives me much time left?

Dr. Phil: Just keep going.

Me: Really? All right then. They whine about getting up and going to bed and going to school and getting dressed and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack and everywhere we go, and even if I buy them a treat they whine because it’s only one not two and no balloons...Patience is crazy for balloons and I hate them plus they are choke hazards right? So I rarely ever buy balloons and then I lie, lie like a rug, because after she goes to sleep I do balloon euthanasia with a pair of very sharp scissors, and I feel good about it, I even feel good about it when she wakes up and is all sad, oh no my balloon died...see? Crazy.

Dr. Phil spreads hands and mugs to audience.

Me: They don’t stop. Not for a second. They are in constant competition for me and my attention and half the time I just want to say here’s two dollars, walk to the store and get a balloon but they are too little and don’t even know how to get there not to mention all the crazies out there...I mean different sort of crazy not my sort, I’m just round the bend, those people are...they’re...well, they're just wrong.

Dr. Phil: Who? The balloon people?

Me: This isn’t about balloons! There are no balloon people. That’s crazy, Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil: I think your thirty seconds are long past up and we need a commercial.

Me, ignoring him: You know what I really wonder is where the line between benign neglect and years of future therapy because “my mother doesn’t like me and doesn’t want to play with me and I have low self-esteem” is...I mean, I’ll admit it, I’m not crazy about hi-ho cherry-o and imaginary dogs who bite the mean guy...sheesh I was unsure that Persistence even knew how to sort shapes...does she even know shapes?...not to mention my doctor thinks I am dreadful because the one photo of my kids in my wallet was a year old and was in fact the same one I showed *last* time I was there...

Me: Geesh I love my kids, I do, oh my goodness they are amazing...but what happened to me? I think I missed the last few years of my youth. Do you know I have to use body butter and moisture socks on my feet every night to keep them from cracking? And what’s with the stiffness and soreness every morning? And food and diets. You know, this is crazy. I woke up and was OLD. But my kids, they are still so young. They don’t get that mommy’s no spring chicken.

Dr. Phil, Excuse me, shape sorting, a photo of a chicken? Biting stiff dogs? What?

Me: and today? Today I find out crap I should have been teaching Patience about parallelograms. I had forgotten about those, who knew. See, this is why I pay to send them to school...for someone else to teach them. And the teacher never said, so how was I to know I was supposed to fill the A bag and the O bag and bring it back. So we missed O but at least I got an apple and acorn in the A bag. I guess that misses the point, that it's supposed to be something you do with the kids not for them quickly as you are walking into school. I have these Hallmark visions and intentions, but maybe that's just more signs of craziness. I don't know. It just never seems to work out the way it is suposed to, you know? And quatrefoil? Sheesh, what is that? A quatrefoil. I'm semi-intelligent, okay used to be, but seriously, quatrefoil, can you tell me what that is? I don’t know this stuff! I forgot it. I think it slid out of my head along with the placenta. But it takes a village, right?

Dr. Phil: I don’t think you can say crap on the air.

Me: Oh, sorry. No more crap. It’s just...boy sometimes they need so much and I just don’t know I’ve got enough in me.

Dr. Phil: Do you see what your role is in all of this?

Me: My role? Well yeah, it’s MOTHER. But do you know what that even means? Because I could really use some help defining that job...

Dr. Phil: You know what? You need help...I’m going to follow-up and make sure you get what you need...Tomorrow...teens in trouble. No mothers allowed.

While credits roll, Me: Really? Help? A full-time lovely nanny? A maid? A yard service? Oh you know…that’s what I need. I had that, maybe I could come back to this side of the bend…

Dr. Phil: Therapy. This isn’t Supernanny or Trading Spaces.

Well, like I said, at least it didn’t involve baby powder, light bulbs and plastic food, or any Barbies in any toilets.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cabin Fever Comes to a Close! Bad weather ending soon?

I stepped outside this morning and...continued on outside, with a smile! I didn't shudder, moan and wish myself back indoors. I didn't complain or kvetch. I said, "Holy sheeeeeee shaaaawwwww! It's a nice day!"

We went outdoors. We walked. We played. Outside.

And we enjoyed ourselves in nice weather.

I doubt the icky weather is completely finished with us. But this has renewed my optimism and enthusiasm, this brief glimpse into possible good weather.

I hadn't realized how down we'd all gotten, how sluggish and lazy-feeling, how the case of the Cabin Fever Shut-Ins had been knocking us low. How much we'd been avoiding the outdoors.

But now, the good weather cometh! We can leave the cabin!

I can't wait for November and December, January and then of course the best month: March. The last really good month before the Icky Weather re-descends.

Woo hoo!

ETA: "Icky" to me means melt-your-eyeballs-hot, which is the weather here from June through August, "bad" to me means "just not pleasant to be outdoors" which is the weather here on months surrounding those. "Good" means anything below 85F and above 10F. In short, I hate hate hate hate hate heat. Which, I know, begs the question of why I live where I do. You know, someplace ALWAYS hot and which I am highly allergic to. Don't worry. I've got a penny jar going, saving and plotting my escape.

By Julie Pippert
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Attack

I'm just a blogging fool lately. What can I say...I must be getting sleep and the brain is working. Another factor might be that the kids are back in school (THANK YOU GODS OF SMALL CHILDRENS' SCHOOLS!) and I'm back working where I do things like THINK! and READ! and WRITE! and INTERACT WITH ADULTS! and LISTEN TO NPR! My personal favorite remains, of course, PEE SOLO!)

So, what with all this time to think and read and write and all, I've been blogging a lot. So don't just read this post...skip down a bit and read the last few. They have come bang bang bang---multiplying like naked baby dolls in the night.

I had prepared a headline review for today. The headlines of last week were startling...distressing...and something I want to process out loud (by which I mean writing in my blog). It had struck me as "funny" (by which I do not mean amusing in the least) that just when I had decided the Catholic Church and I were just not going to work out (see Fish or Cut Bait, Lady) Pope Benedict climbs aboard the Good Ship Naive (or maybe it was the Good Ship Crazy Like a vision isn't what it used to be) and spurs on two suicide bombers this weekend.

I had also prepared a post about autism. This was in response to Her Bad Mother's challenge to write about Something We Care About. Although it actually comes from Greenstone and has led to the blogworld's version of the Great Peanut Ban debate...I was going to write about it. Just because I welcome any chance to illuminate on certain topics.

However, those will have to sit in my Drafts folder.

Today I am going to tell you about a book that happened to jump in my basket at the library---for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11 (which is when I was at the library, trying like hell to avoid the day altogether by being Stubbornly Normal)---and which kept me awake last night.

This book will probably randomly strike out in my mind for some time to come, oh say any time I listen to the news or ponder pretty much any emotion related to feeling confined (there's much less freedom out there, to say the least), under-served (I don't worry about any suicide bombers when I go to McDonald's with the kids on a crazy rainy day), oppressed (hey I can drive a car down the street without being harassed), a sense of anger or loss (my life is cush by most comparisons) or so forth.

What book has aroused me to such a state?

The Attack, by Yasmina Khadra.

I read it in what I felt was a somewhat questionable translation from the original French. I might try to make my way through the original French version.

My criticism---it lacks originality of prose and eloquence--matches other criticism I have since read, but might well stem from the translation issue. There is a sentence, "She was horribly exercised with me," which I think was actually meant to be, "She was horribly irritated with me..." Little language flaws and so forth like this might really detract from the author's original prose.

But that is so very small in the grand scheme of this book.

Le Figaro states, "The Attack is a mournful read it is to undermine your tranquility, and you can't tell whether the shiver that goes through you at the end is a sign of anguish or relief."

From The New Yorker
Dr. Amin Jaafari, an Israeli Arab, seems fully assimilated into Tel Aviv society, with a loving wife, a successful career as a surgeon, and numerous Jewish friends. But after a restaurant bombing kills nineteen people, and it becomes apparent that his wife was the bomber, he plunges into the world of Islamic extremism, trying to understand how he missed signs of her intentions. Khadra (the nom de plume of Mohammed Moulessehoul) vividly captures Jaafari's anguish and his anger at the fanatics who recruited his wife. The Israelis don't escape lightly, either, as their army marches over law-abiding Arab citizens in an attempt to stamp out the militants. Khadra's writing has a tendency toward cliché, but the book's dark vision of the conflict is powerful.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

It is a very powerful book. I promote it here because it is the most emotionally evocative and thought-stimulating book I've read in a while. Maybe since The Sparrow or Bel Canto.

That's big words from me. See, I think The Sparrow is a perfect book: amazingly well-written, heart-clenching characterization, fantastic dialogue, an incredibly propeling and compelling story, originality of thought and prose, and so on. It is, quite simply, not just technically perfect, but a fantastic read. I throw Bel Canto in to the same bucket. At the end, I felt depressed that the book was finished. I missed the characters and story.

I think The Attack isn't quite the same as The Sparrow, but it is brilliant in its own way...sort of like Bel Canto. Very complicated and shades of gray. Challenging to your perception of Good and Bad.

It's a very personal view of a media-frenzied, global history situation, and it's easy to get so caught up in the narrative and fast-paced story that the little nuggets of this is much bigger and more complicated than it appears resonate only quietly while reading, but strike you full-force later.

Am I being too general? You'll have to go read. I have a strict No Spoiler rule.

By making the main character an "assimilated Arab" the author overcomes a potential lack of relate-ability to a broad foreign audience, many of whom might consider major characters "enemies." Through Amin's eyes---which are believable to white privileged Westerners---we get to see the town of Jenin under siege, pester an immam in Bethlehem, and confront racism in Tel Aviv.

Not to mention, of course, that we can all grasp the universality of human suffering.

In fact, I think that is the crux of the conflict in the book: is suffering personal, or global? Or maybe the crux is: do we keep suffering personal, or make it global? How do you decide when it is one, and when it is the other?

I find myself thinking back and realizing how cleverly the author sucked me in with the intensely personal narrative of the alternately very self-aware and naive Dr. Amin Jaafari. How I cruised over global politics, paying more attention to Amin's tightrope---how lines and sides are more ambiguous than you think, how you can never be sure who subscribes to what, and how dynamic and disorganized the organized factions are.

Amin Jaafari is the perfect character because he has a cataclysmic catalyst that drives him to rush through an agonizing series of events, all while reflecting on who he is and what he believes, how he got to be where he is, and what has happened to his land in his lifetime.

Plus, you care. Really, you care. You care about Amin, his friends, his relatives, you understand him and the others through their own and others' eyes.

It's complicated. I don't feel like I'm doing a good job of explaining it. Probably because I'm still processing and trying to speak in generalities.

It’s his story, and it’s history. It’s a compelling book because it mingles the two, without you realizing you are getting a dose of history in with his story.

The jacket says, “From the graphic, beautifully rendered description of the bombing that opens the novel to the searing conclusion, The Attack portrays the reality of terrorism and its incalculable spiritual costs. Intense and humane, devoid of political bias, hatred and polemics, it probes deep inside the Muslim world and gives readers a profound understanding of what seems impossible to understand.”

I agree with: graphic description, incalculable spiritual costs (the many types of victims of terrorism---direct and indirect…and the victimization that leads to more victimization), intense, humane, and probing.

I don’t think it is possible to completely suspend bias, but I do think the author works to be fairly even-handed in presenting all sides. I also don’t think we can ever fully understand terrorism---I’m not sure even the character does. In fact, I think an event at the end is meant to illuminate that there is no general understanding to take away.

It’s a trip through a global timeline and a trip through Amin’s personal timeline, neither of which are linear.

If you liked this sort of thing…go, get, read.

By Julie Pippert
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

When you seach for girls...

Apparently boys have lives and girls are bodies.

Is this a new twist on old sexism? Boys versus girls? A mechanical reflection of a cultural bias? Or should I not read too much into a limited collection of 1s and 0s?

Someone searched for “girls” and found my blog. This is no surprise. I use the word liberally and often. I mean my kids, however. It struck me odd, though, this general search for the plain word "girls." Just for fun I tracked over to see what else this search brought up. My blog was like Bambi the lamb among Bambi Does Hollywood.

Just look at what technorati thinks people who search for “girls” might also be interested in:

Related tags for girls
• Sexy,
• Babes,
• Photos,
• Flickrbabes,
• Women,
• Hot,
• Beautiful,
• Naked,
• Beauty

Charming. Just the world I want to raise my daughters in.

As you might already have guessed, the search netted not only the “related” tags above, but also---excepting my blog---a lot of porn.

I feel stunned/flattered/boggled that someone searching for “girls” would choose to visit my String Theory post when it lies alongside Naughtylyla.

NaughtyLyla i like to feel the smell of a...
Girl Blog by bl4h • 2 blogs link here
very hot,sexy and delicious. My Turn ons are i like to feel the smell of a man,his lips and tongue all over my body

I decided to see if the counter to girls---boys---netted similar results.

It didn’t.

Boys, it seems, are more than tight gluts and sex drive. Boys, it seems, have LIVES. They like music, and sports. They go to work and/or school. They like movies. See for yourself:

Related tags for boys
• Work,
• Friends,
• School,
• Girls,
• Life,
• Gay,
• Backstreet,
• Music,
• Everybody,
• Movies

As with “girls” the search results matched the related tags.

I was deeply disturbed.

One of the current plights of females right there, condensed to a bulleted list, in Technorati.

As the mother of females (note new avoidance of word “girls”) I feel tired and over-challenged when I see this sort of thing. I feel even more so when I see this sort of thing:

These are actually geared towards children.

Izzymom’s post Just What Your First Grader Needs…A Padded Bra sums it up pretty well.

Even shorter: great scott how very ick.

By Julie Pippert
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© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

And now for String Theory

Just kidding.

I'm going to lighten up. I think it's been a little INTJ deep introspective tone of serious around here lately. Which is fine. That's me sometimes. But other times I like to leap up on stage, hug and kiss a rock star and scream out my love.

Then's there is the middle. See? Not a fallacy or excluded.

Today, let's talk really important things like donuts.

It occurs to me that donuts are a bit like Oreos. When you like them, you've got your whole personal ritual around them.

First off, church and donuts and cops and donuts seem to have somehow merged into cliche culture. Don't worry I won't ponder that too deeply. This is meant to be a light and fluffy post. But I can't seem to help myself...just a little.

And that is my motto when it comes to donuts: can't seem to help myself, just a little.

I like donuts. I might even like them better than chocolate. But let's not test that because you can get donuts that are chocolate.

So there I a room. Let's say it is in a church. You'd never believe I was a cop anyway.

There sit two boxes: one mixed and one plain glazed.

For the majority of the time, the boxes sit there, untouched. This is a ladies' group and we all need a reason, that is to say, an excuse, to begin.

In my case, I like to say I am Being Good and not eating something that will negate my ability to eat anything else the rest of the day and half of tomorrow. I tell myself I can resist. I am reassured that nobody else opens the box. A box isn't tempting.

However, watching someone open it---the smell sweeping out to my sugar starved nose---and select a soft, still warm donut, then tentatively take the first bite, with donut squishing down on the sides, and a quick flick of the tongue to catch the bit of glaze on the corner of the mouth...that's not tempting, that's irresistible.

So I am number 2 person at the box. I open the floodgates.

I start with the plain glazed. I calculate it is about 6 weight watchers points. I imagine that is less than the iced and filled ones. I console myself that while being naughty, I am not being as naughty as I could be.

It's good, oh it's so good. I don't even feel guilty.

I have a plan, see. I will give donuts to Patience and Persistence, sugar them up. This makes them run, so I get to run. See? Work it off. No guilt.

But the one simply leaves me hungering for more.

I see a friend bite into a jelly-filled, and laughing, catch the jelly squeezing out the back. Must. have. one.

This leads me to wonder about other people and donuts.

What kind of relationship do you have with donuts?

And when you eat a jelly-filled, do you start at the front (away from the hole) or from the back(right at the hole)?

Do you like to drink something sweet like frou frou coffee or chocolate milk to compliment, or something strong like dark roast coffee, to contrast?

What's your favorite donut? Donut place?

My father hooked me on donuts. My mother was very into healthy stuff when we were kids, "Here kids, eat this Orange Candy. Mmmmm. What a treat!" Like we were that stupid. I'd been to school. I knew oranges weren't candy. But my father had secret vices, and so did we, the kids. As an income-earning adult, his field of play knew very few bounds. As low-allowance kids with no means of transportation other than bikes and feet, our field of play was very limited.

In fact, we only had one field of play. It was the corner Stop-N-Go. You had to walk along a fairly busy two-lane street, and cross that same street, to get there. Plus, as my mother said, there was never any good reason to go there because the inside was dirty and disgusting and full of junk.

Music to my kid ears.

And the fact that it was Verboten? Only added to the fun and flavor.

Back then, there was penny candy. Rows and rows and rows. Tons of candy. Pop rocks. Trading card bubblegum. Twizzle sticks. Mike and Ike. Jujubes (which I never ate since this was my most despised nickname---second most despised was Julie Do You Love Me, that damn Bobby Sherman song). Wax lips, fun but disgusting. Good and plenty. I remember the new Hundred Thousand Dollar bars…so big my brain couldn’t wrap around it, but my mouth sure could. Red Hots. My favorite. I loved February when they came heart shaped.

My sister and I spent our whole allowance. On candy. The Forbidden. We’d hide it on our bodies, and then in secret hidey holes in our bedrooms. We’d lie to mom; tell her we just went along for the walk. Or worse, lie more and tell her we were just playing at Shelly’s house.

Shelly. Shelly B. No last names to protect the guilty.

Shelly was a Mean Girl. You know, the one who has power and uses it for evil, not good.

She was the Baby of her Family. Her leash---if she had one---was long and loose. And she knew it, lorded it over the rest of us, children with plenty of rules, discipline, and consequences.

Shelly got to do everything she wanted. Shelly got everything she wanted. You’d think with two teen siblings and two parents she’d have more parents than she could stand, but she ran fast and loose. The parents, I heard adults say, had their hands full with the boy.

So from our perspective Shelly had the good life. Shelly got cookies for snack, candy whenever she wanted, had a pool, could run in the rain, and seemed to have no boundaries.

She knew my sister and I had little to no freedom, and could smell our desperation. I recall one time, everyone had gathered at Shelly’s house, while she perched on her front stoop like a queen. She had Red Hots. She knew we wanted them. She told us we had to do what she said. We refused. She divided the Red Hots into two piles, then dumped both piles into two cups of water. She said, “If you want these you have to drink the whole cup of water!”

Drinking a cup of water didn’t sound too bad. I did it all the time. But I could smell a Game of Humiliation. And I knew Shelly. I thought hard and fast. If I refused, she’d call me a sissy. Kids would think I couldn’t take a dare, and for sure I wouldn’t get the candy. If I complied, she’d think she could rule me, and she’d still probably have some trick where I didn’t get the candy. While I thought, my sister reached for a cup, and before I could stop her, started to drink. The other children whooped and hollered and laughed. My sister started to cry. She was younger, less knowing about the social implications of mean girls. She got to the bottom and ate the candy. Later, she said it was worth it to get the candy. I think…I think she thought it was fun, a game. Maybe she wasn’t wrong.

“Give me that cup,” I said, “You think you can dare us. I’ll drink that water but I don’t even want your gross candy.”

I took a sip. The water was warm, with a slight red dye and spice taste from the dissolving Red Hots. It was disgusting. I could never finish it, not without gagging. Struck by inspiration, I smiled, and turned, dumped the whole cup out, candy too.

“There’s your trick. Mean mean mean mean mean. We don’t need to play with you!” I told her, seething with resentment and anger. And some humiliation. For some reason, she found us targets, my sister and me. I looked at the other children, friends, kids we played with every day. Walked to school with. In league with her. I hated them too. And I hated my mom, too, for making us weird, different, a target.

And that’s when my sister and I started lying to our mom. Using our allowance to buy candy, and hiding it in our rooms. I’d stash Halloween candy and make it last all year practically. Easter candy too, although it usually didn’t last as long.

When my parents divorced, we sold that house and moved. I never saw Shelly again.

And we started only seeing our dad every other weekend. He was more a Father. You know, business suit guy, earns the income, comes home to make sure the wife is running it well and to Be In Charge. He played with us a little, but more in an “I’m teaching you” way, like to ride a bike or a skateboard. Maybe if we had been tomboys, he’d have interacted more, but he wasn’t too keen on our Barbie Wonderland.

In the same way we had our own life, at home, which didn’t include him, after the divorce he had his own life and routine too…one he couldn’t seem to change on the weekends we were there. Maybe he subscribed to the “children live around the parents, not the parents live around the children” theory. I don’t know.

I do know that every weekend we saw him, on Saturday we’d go to Shipley’s early and get fresh donuts. This was his bribe to us, his one concession. After that we’d get dragged to hardware stores and car dealerships all weekend…doing Dad things. It never occurred to him to have kid-friendly activities, toys, friends, playdates…anything.

So donuts…getting donuts…was the one fun thing. Sometimes we’d take the donuts home and he’d make his Famously Delicious Scrambled Eggs, and Orange Julius, to go with the donuts.

We loved donuts. They were Our Thing with Dad. And he, let me tell you, was a connoisseur. We learned to appreciate what made donuts good versus just okay.

So to this day, I look at a donut and always recall the Very Best One. And I can’t resist, just in case. Since moving here I’ve rediscovered Shipley’s. They are always good. Usually irresistible. And always a good bribe for the kids on a Saturday morning.

Oh, and to answer my own questions:

What kind of relationship do you have with donuts? Just elaborated on that in this post.

And when you eat a jelly-filled, do you start at the front (away from the hole) or from the back(right at the hole)? Always away from the hole. Sort of a treasure hunt for my mouth. Nothing makes me so angry food-wise as to get gypped with little to no filling in my donut after careful excavation of the interior.

Do you like to drink something sweet like frou frou coffee or chocolate milk to compliment, or something strong like dark roast coffee, to contrast? Start sweet, stay sweet. So definitely frou frou coffee. I always like French vanilla and nothing has ever topped that for me.

What's your favorite donut? Donut place? You’d never ask me to name my favorite child. I protest. Oh wait, this is my question. Well, I declare it officially UNFAIR and refuse to answer on that basis. I will admit a partiality for the doughy apple fritters and plain glazed, but I guess a nice sour cream cake might come close to favorite. As for place, Shipley’s.

By Julie Pippert
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Monday, September 11, 2006

A Memorial Anyway...“Not in this chamber only at my birth”

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950).

Sonnet IV (1917)

NOT in this chamber only at my birth—
When the long hours of that mysterious night
Were over, and the morning was in sight—
I cried, but in strange places, steppe and firth
I have not seen, through alien grief and mirth;
And never shall one room contain me quite
Who in so many rooms first saw the light,
Child of all mothers, native of the earth.

So is no warmth for me at any fire
To-day, when the world’s fire has burned so low;
I kneel, spending my breath in vain desire,
At that cold hearth which one time roared so strong,
And straighten back in weariness, and long
To gather up my little gods and go.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Distinguishing between fact and that a 3 pt or 10 pt line weight?

Fact versus fiction.

Here's a hint: sometimes it's a fine line, sometimes it's subjective, it typically depends upon the point of view...and history is usually written by the winners.

It's like painting, drawing, or photography: it's all in where the light hits and what angle you shoot/draw from. Different elements will stand out, and grab people in different ways.

I’ve noticed in the last year a very disturbing trend. It’s disturbing to me as a reader, as a writer, and of course as a publisher.

It’s the age-old “literature is dangerous” movement at core, but on the surface, it appears a large number of people in the US are having trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. Worse, it appears some publishers might be taking advantage of that fact. And worse yet, it appears that when a person is dissatisfied and feels “betrayed” by what they read, they can use the court system to demand restitution.

Let’s start where it most recently began for me: Dan Brown’s clear-as-crystal-freshly-dusted-clearly-billed-as fiction book The DaVinci Code.

Many writers make their living with this style of conspiracy-theory/action-adventure book. The DaVinci Code wasn’t even Brown’s first. I can read that manuscript and guess that Brown must have read Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. This guy, Zuckerman, is a literary agent and self-described book doctor. (HA HA! Good one. I should use that on my next set of business cards. I’m more of an ER Surgeon, though; let me tell you, some of these manuscripts I’ve seen.) Zuckerman is the Writer’s Man. Let me name drop: Ken Follett. Editors read this book. That’s its power.

However intriguing Brown’s books are, they are, nevertheless, stationed on the Fiction Shelf.

So why the big hoopla? How could people on both side of the fence be so confused that it is fiction?

Is it a faith issue? Is it the Great Divide over the biggest of all literary achievements, The Bible? Fact versus fiction?

So what if people get intrigued and investigate some concepts in Brown’s book or any fiction book for that matter. Curiosity is a good thing. Right?

Why the need to feel so very threatened by the discussion and investigation that came from The DaVinci Code?

Honestly, I have never understood feeling threatened by anything out there. I'm a Christian, a pretty garden variety one, but one nonetheless, and I'm even one Every Single Day although I don't have any bumper stickers that say that.

I'm happy to challenge my views regularly. It doesn't shake my faith. My beliefs are ever-changing, constantly growing and evolving, which I think is fulfilling a divine purpose of my faith, answering God's call to continue to move ever closer to him.

But I still read Dan Brown and wonder, just a little, marvel at the mystery, and the history of it all.

And I read Harry Potter too.

Another tempest in a tea pot. How does that book “promote” witchcraft (why is that so bad?) any more than Dr. Seuss encourages you to eat green eggs and ham?

I have my own pet theory. It involves me having my own mind and very solid critical thinking skills, thank you very much, versus, well, not.

And these thinking skills enable me to understand that simply because a novel is written in the first person, that doesn’t mean it is an autobiography. And even if it is billed as a memoir, I know sometimes, things are as we recall them, or prefer to recall them, more so than say had Ken Burns been trailing behind us our entire life.

I am, of course, referring to James Frey's novel A Million Little Pieces.

I don’t argue that this is a somewhat nebulous affair. I think he mislead people and the publisher perpetuated it…to a degree, knowingly or unknowingly, I don’t know. It could have been error on the part of large book chains, putting it with memoirs instead of fiction, but I sort of doubt that is where it started. I don’t really understand how it came to be, but it did. And while on the one hand I understand the fine line of marketing and the perils of publishing, on the other hand, it really discredits the entire profession when something like this happens, and I feel angry.

But still, a lawsuit Frey settles suits over ‘Million Little Pieces’?

People felt defrauded, “Under a tentative legal settlement, readers who said they were defrauded by Frey’s best seller, “A Million Little Pieces,” can claim refunds, an agreement called unprecedented — and understandable — by a leading publishing attorney.”

People paid for and got a book. Publishers can't help if the reader didn't like it, or felt betrayed or unhappy from reading it.

Too many times to count I've bought a book b/c I love that author or it got good reviews...then I read it and thought, well, there's two hours of my life I'll never get back. Same goes for movies.

It never occurred to me to sue anyone because I felt defrauded (damn you Baxter on NPR, that book SUCKED see you in COURT buddy! damn you Random House, the reviews on the cover promised a great read, I feel defrauded, see you in court! Barnes&Noble you SUCK, who among you put this book on the Must Read table, see you in COURT!)

This lawsuit seems frivolous and lawyer-oriented to me. I find it an unreasonable expectation to claim to be defrauded and sue.

I've worked in publishing for many years. And this stuns me. I can't say that too many books are terribly profitable. First, there is the development cost. Then the design and layout cost. Then the printing cost. Then the royalties and staff costs. In financials, dollar for dollar is....hmm a complicated thing to hit. I know how the businesses stay afloat and do profit. But it is a challenge.

I know the feeling of "our name is our true value" and desire to maintain a good reputation. I also know many people don't know the name of the publisher.

I've had to deal more than once with people who were disappointed with their purchase and wanted a refund direct from us, the publisher. I can't think of a time we didn't grant it. I admit on my end it was usually with an eye roll.

In my very humble opinion and experience, the only time a true refund should be granted is if a reference book is erroneous, a product is damaged, or the true purpose of the book was somehow perverted.

That book---whether fact or fiction---was for entertainment.

Lie or truth, well or badly's all subjective.

And speaking of subjective, let’s talk about the upcoming WTC mini-series, The Path to 9/11.

Another fact versus fiction.

This is where I employ my suspension of belief. It’s TV made by producers who are looking to earn Big Bucks. They will go for the Highest Drama necessary to draw and entertain the masses. Ratings count. This is why I don’t even believe my local news station to be completely n the up-and-up as far as presenting a real picture of the world I live in.

Still, we do have a responsibility to accuracy, but more so, to the implications of what we do. So perhaps having only a single advisor from the Bush Administration wasn’t the wisest move. It is a pretty heady insinuation, if it is actually made, that Clinton’s and Berger’s inaction was the cause of the attacks.

From the sounds of it, the writer and producer are either hopelessly naïve, thinking “any press is good press” or they have an axe to grind with the Clinton Administration. Many big names have weighed in to say it is an egregious misrepresentation of facts and even calling it fiction isn’t enough. The producers claim it is based on the 9/11 report, and how many people have read the entirety of that? And know it well enough to know which parts of the show are real versus drama?

Maybe I shouldn’t assume that because I automatically deconstruct everything, others do. There are many different people out there, as the Brown and Frey situations demonstrate. People who don’t so clearly distinguish between fact and fiction.

Is it enough to say it isn’t a documentary? Is it enough to say “based on?”

It should be, but I can also see where it is confusing. I guess it’s fair game. The Reagan mini-series was pulled for very similar reasons. Maybe it simply needs to be true enough to not be deliberately misleading.

Perhaps that is the line, although I still don’t know its weight.

Fact is the really nebulous thing, and no one person has the patent on the entire story exactly as it happened. Like I said at the beginning, it all depends upon the angle you shoot from, what picture results.

I always try to shoot from many angles. When I put these together, I get a truer, more three dimensional image.

Sources: Frey settles suit (MSNBC)
Clinton blasts 9/11 film, amid report of changes (CNN)

By Julie Pippert
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Friday, September 08, 2006

I meant to keep quiet...but it's such a travesty...such a tragedy

Today I was inspired by David Portorti on Democracy Now.

They were, among other topics, once again discussing President Bush (note the respectful use of capital letters, no spitting, or nicknames) and his press conference of 8-21-2006.

(I'll add links below...I'm selfish enough to not want you to click away quite yet. I want to make my point first.)

In short, on 8-21, Bush announced Resolution 1701, which deploys troops to Lebanon. This is, allegedly, ". . .essential to peace in the region and it's essential to the freedom of Lebanon." Freedom and protection from? Israel? Somehow I don't think so, although Israel is the main threat to Lebanon.

Also during this press conference, he attempted to backpedal while proselytizing (note use of respectful word instead of the more pejorative "propagandizing") on the issue of Iraq, and gear us up to invade even further in the Middle East.

The terrorists and their state sponsors, Iran and Syria, have a much darker vision. They're working to thwart the efforts of the Lebanese people to break free from foreign domination and build their own democratic future. The terrorists and their sponsors are not going to succeed. The Lebanese people have made it clear they want to live in freedom. And now it's up to their friends and allies to help them do so.

So Sayeth the Burning Bush

(I apologize heartily for the nickname and disrespect. I can't seem to help a little snot sometimes.)

Terrorist groups are a shady operation by dint of purpose. I think it is a loose cannon to assume it is state sponsored, simply because it resides within some states and recruits from there.

That logic would require us to attack Great Britain too. Since the last terrorist round-up included British citizens. You know those Parliamentary states. Begging for freedom they are, and ripe for terrorists. Tony Blair is well-known for his sympathy and support of terrorism.


Wait! He's a friend and ally!

The terrorists just happened to be there. Unfortunately Blair couldn't pedal as far from them as Bush could since they were actual citizens, unlike the terrorists in the US who were only here on visas.

It seems so obvious to me.

I think what Bush lacks is perspective. From our point of view, perhaps certain brands of Islam do seem radical. But you know, from another point of view, certain brands of Christianity are pretty radical too.

Is it possible to stop and look and see that in Iraq, in Iran, in Lebanon, it sort of looks like the US is a crazy place, bent on invading and taking over their countries? Bent on imposing our beliefs and system of government...possibly against their will?

In which case, can you even call that freedom and democracy?

What are the democratic principles again?

As David Potorti said, "The problem with propoganda is that it is quite boring and predicatable."

This was his comment when Bush said he never, and nobody ever, implied that Iraq had anything to do with the WTC attacks. And yet, so often he put the two sentences side-by-side, using classical conditioning and the philosophy of Aristotle, his law of contiguity, which states that: "When two things commonly occur together, the appearance of one will bring the other to mind." It’s classical conditioning, which is associative learning. It’s why critical thinking skills are so important.

In other words, bullshit. Of course he meant to link the two in our minds. Otherwise why so frequently state the two side-by-side?

And, he did maintain the association in his own denial of doing so...note the bolded portions.

Bush’s actual quote was:

Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would -- who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East.

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was -- the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question -- my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken.
Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case.

And one way to defeat that -- defeat resentment is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government. Now, I said going into Iraq that we've got to take these threats seriously before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him. Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.

(Little aside: don't you like the euphemism "freedom agenda?" Like we are ladies at a tea. And "relations with Zarqawi," what is this, Biblical, how they know one another?)

Listen, quit saying we are freeing people. Instead say we are the New Blue Scare. We are going to impose Bush’s brand of democracy on the world, whether they want it or not. In which case, call it something other than democracy, yes?

Because as David Potorti said, “If you want to spread freedom and democracy, then the point is to listen to the people, that’s freedom, that’s democracy. So listen to the people of Iraq. They want us to leave.”

Bush has a response for that. It’s the same one he uses on people who disagree with his ongoing aggression. We’re too stupid to know better. We just don’t get it. Luckily, we have out Burning Bush to Shepherd us to the Truth.

But he’ll respect our right (that one at least he respects) to speak out our disagreement. (And to those of you who are burning to comment LOL to tell me I am un-American, and tell me if I am so unhappy to go somewhere else. You’ve commented to me before. And I want to remind you, with your own esteemed President’s words, that disagreement is in fact, very Patriotic.)

I will never question the patriotism of somebody who disagrees with me. . .never challenging somebody's love for America when you criticize their strategies or their point of view. And, you know, for those who say that, well, all they're trying to say is, we're not patriotic, simply don't listen to our words very carefully, do they?

On to Lebanon and Israel:

Q Israel broke its word twice on a truce. And you mentioned Hezbollah rockets, but it's -- Israeli bombs have destroyed Lebanon. Why do you always give them a pass? And what's your view on breaking of your oath for a truce?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you. I like to remind people about how this started, how this whole -- how the damage to innocent life, which bothers me -- but, again, what caused this.

Q Why drop bombs on --

THE PRESIDENT: Let me finish -- let -- ma'am. Ma'am, please let me finish the question. It's a great question to begin with. The follow-up was a little difficult, but anyway. (Laughter.) I know you're waiting for my answer, aren't you, with bated breath.

This never would have occurred had a terrorist organization, a state within a state, not launched attacks on a sovereign nation. From the beginning, Helen, I said that Israel, one, has a right to defend herself, but Israel ought to be cautious about how she defends herself. Israel is a democratically elected government. They make decisions on their own sovereignty. It's their decision-making that is -- what leads to the tactics they chose.

But the world must understand that now is the time to come together to address the root cause of the problem. And the problem was you have a state within a state. You have people launch attacks on a sovereign nation without the consent of the government in the country in which they are lodged.

White Knighting.

Okay the Lebanese people want to live in their own freedom, free of threat from the US and Israel, at a guess. I checked, and googled, and couldn't find a press release from The People of Lebanon begging for the US to swoop in to their nation and establish a democracy.

I think all they want is their own land back and no more Israeli rockets smashing them.

I never noticed the US being a Big Friend and Ally of Lebanon. I actually sort of noticed us being part of the Mean Girl Club with Israel, the state, by the way, that caused all the "damage."

I remember right after Hezbollah launched its rocket attacks on Israel, I said, this is a clarifying moment. It's a chance for the world to see the threats of the 21st century, the challenge we face.

This is what he thought of? Rockets strike and kill, repeatedly, destroying a region, and he thinks, "HA! Now I can say I told you so!"

There it is…another opportunity to show us, the dissenters, how we Just Do Not Get It. isn't that clear to the rest of us, as is evidenced by the waning support, and thus his need to once again strike terror into our hearts with threats like this

The United States of America must understand it's in our interests that we help this democracy succeed. As a matter of fact, it's in our interests that we help reformers across the Middle East achieve their objectives. This is the fundamental challenge of the 21st century. A failed Iraq would make America less secure. A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide safe haven for terrorists and extremists. It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers. In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales.

Thus, of course, we put on our fatigues, clambor up into our white tanks and disperse democracy everywhere we go like a Father Christmas. They want it, you know. We know that, even if thay don't. (Insert little sarcastic sneer here.)

America is making a long-term commitment to help the people of Lebanon because we believe every person deserves to live in a free, open society that respects the rights of all. We reject the killing of innocents to achieve a radical and violent agenda.

So Sayeth the Burning Bush

In which case, isn’t this:

(This was a school.)

As wrong as this?

Dear God, which of your children do you love better? Please choose, which is right and which is wrong, and tell us which one deserves to live, and which will die.

For more information, go to the sources, please, read and decide for yourself:

Bush's Press Conference on 8-21-2006

Link to the 9-8-2006 Democracy Now interview with David Portorti

Link to the Sept. 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows

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By Julie Pippert
Artful Media Group
Museum Quality Digital Art and Photography
Limited Edition Prints
Artful by Nature Fine Art and Photography Galleries

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another 9-11 nightmare

I do my best to completely block out any association between 9-11 and the actual date of September 11th that occurs every year. It lingers in my subconscious, though, that "tip of my tongue" place where it seems like there is something I am forgetting. I get antsy this time of year, anxious. I avoid news, all news, even more assiduously this time of year. And I've only begun watching news again---after I got on the wagon from my last newsaholic bender---a little bit. Internet, reading, mostly.

But it's unavoidably out there, even in the most innocuous places. Like, the memorial link on one of my favorite blogs. Or the special report on TV last night, on the channel near the season premiere of my favorite show.

Still, I block. My disassociation is ironclad.

Until last night, when I dreamed of it, and this morning when I woke up and said, oh, we're just barely a week out. September 11 will be the 9-11 fifth anniversary. As if such things should have an anniversary, and yet, they do. We always note significant event dates, there is no rule about good or bad.

So my nightmare.

It begins as always. I am in Tower 1. In an office. It's normal. People are sitting at their desks, low-walled cubicles. Some are on the phone. Some are talking, some are making copies. The usual thing. It's early morning so there is more clumping and talking than there might be later on, when people focus and get their work groove going.

And then the big big big big hit.

Paper flies, people scream, what was that, oh my God what was that.

Calm down, the calmers are saying. just calm down, don't worry.

I don't know, me and people like me say, that can't be good, no, that has to be really, really bad. Some of us are remembering the parking garage.

I am standing near the door to the elevator bank. A noise alerts me. I look at the elevators. I think they are dropping down. I can't tell. But it decides me.

I think we need to go, I say, yes, yes we need to go!

The calmers hear the hysteria in my voice and see it is passing along to others. They try to reassure, but we are having none of it and we make for the stairs and begin running down.

At first a few try to be cool, and say how it's going to suck to have to work in sweaty clothes the rest of the day. Others force a laugh and agree, saying, won't we feel foolish and Dave's going to be so mad, I had that project and he's stayed there working on it, and things like that. I feel a pressure building inside me and I don't laugh, but say, I'd rather be foolish than sorry.

I know they are just trying to "normalize" but I don't want this to feel normal. And I resent being so sucked into myself, rather than one of the calmers or strong ones.

I'm remembering one building I was in, where the fire alarm always malfunctioned. After almost six months of racing down sixteen floors at least twice a week, we got cocky. Then, one time the alarm went off and we ignored it. Until we looked down out the window and saw about five fire trucks. Then we took it seriously and luckily it wasn't too late. The real fire was in another part of the building.

We're running, running down the stairs and more and more people. Someone is yelling, it was an airplane! And everyone thinks he is crazy. An airplane? How can this be?

My perspective shifts. I'm on top of a building under contruction. There are only steel beams overhead. I know whose perspective this is. We hear the airplane first, so we turn and watch in horror as we see it is barely overhead...and watch in agony and disbelief as it flies directly into the tower. The foreman yells, we better get down, I'm not sure this will be strong enough to hold after what is going to happen. We know enough to agree, and his leadership is set so we follow him. Let's head for the river, he says, the boats are more likely than the trains, he adds with confidence, as if he has been through this before. And he was in the military, so maybe he has.

Back to my original perspective. Running down the stairs. Almost out, almost out.
When we get out, finally, we turn around and look, just like you are not supposed to do. But we look and we see how bad it is, and every sentence that starts in my brain is melted by the horror.

All the people still in there, we have to go back, we have to go back to the office and tell them, they have to get out now.

It's irrational. Either they are on their way out or it is already too late.

But too late isn't an option, we have to go back in, but it's impossible.

My mind leaves me. It goes inside. It flies up up to the top of the building. Magically there is no center of the building. I can see in every office. There are people all standing there, faint and smoky, looking at the hollow center, sad and confused, and I think, they are already ghosts.

My perspective changes and again, I know whose perspective this is. I see a terrible smoke blowing, black, thick, wrong. My boss is beside me, at my desk, and I don't even remember why or what we were talking about. I feel it, something big and bad, and I picture home, the only place I want to be. Right now. I start to rise. I know her, she will say, sit down, calm down, we're not going to react to this, we have deadlines. But oddly, this time, she doesn't. Instead she says, you know what? I think we need to go, NOW. I have no idea where she went next, but as we all fled, fast, I didn't see her again.

Another quick perspective change, and again, I know who this belongs to. I'm on the phone, complaining to a contractor, who is assuring me he'll work out the technical bugs, yes by tomorrow. I crack a joke, trying to soften the complaint, and he starts to laugh but is suddenly cut off. Hello? Hello? I say, Are you there? Did you hang up on me? I turn to my officemate and say, He just hung up! I'm calling back. I try him several more times, and get no answer. Nothing, not even voicemail. I try to quash the irritation I feel. I'll get a coffee. My officemates calls to me as I start to walk to the door, did you say, he was at the WTC? she asks. Yes, what a blackout? We'd be hit too. No, she says, you need to come see this...

I'm back in my own original perspective. I'm stopped in a small space. Concrete around me.

Quick as a dropping elevator I fly down the building, stopping, now and again, to look and note the people. People in an office, some still unknowingly clutching a folder of paper. The one office, some sort of doctor I think, now realizing I had noticed the many different businesses...a pregnant woman and another woman, in chairs, their heads leaning back, eyes closed, why won't they get up, get up I yell, get up, why won't they get up, why won't they open their eyes. I feel the panic shut down, end. I look at them and I know. The people who were there, every day, like they would be anyway, the people who were there, by random fate. And in a weird way, I accept it. Part of me anyway.

With an odd peace, something just past numbness and into a small spurt of gratitude, it is later, and I am at home. My daughters are curled beside me, one on each side. I kiss the tops of their heads and feel my own blessing.

For a minute.

I awaken when Persistence body slams me, my physical alarm clock.

And that's when it hits me with a dull thud. Five days five years.

I feel guilty. Angry at myself. Ashamed. How dare this be my drama. It's not my drama. It didn't happen to me. I was beside it, not in it.

I drift back through the incredible detail of the nightmare. It's never been this detailed before. It's always vague feelings, vague little scenes.

Then I let myself feel, for a second. Find my priorities.

Then I let myself recall the real day, the real thing that happened.

I was seven months pregnant. We were over the moon, after trying so long. These days I was being a little sluggish and self-indulgent. Giving myself extra space in the mornings. I had heartburn that was getting worse and I sometimes woke in the night, thus was often tired. I don't remember whether my husband was already gone when I got up, or whether we said goodbye. It seems like you ought to remember a detail like that. I know I tried to, desperately, while driving to the point we said we'd meet at when we last spoke, after the attacks.

I got ready, like usual, humming a bit here and there and talking to the baby. On the way to work, I decided to stop at a great bakery and treat myself. They had outrageously good pistachio donuts, made fresh. Since I had been craving it, I also got a chocolate milk. See, those are the details I recall. Low priority details.

So it was late, as I entered the parking lot to my office. As usual, I was listening to NPR. The typically unruffled newscaster suddenly gasped and yelped, then tried to collect himself to say, "It appears there is a fire of some sort at the North Tower of the World Trade Center...there are reports that a plane crashed into it...nothing is confirmed yet...some are saying it was on purpose, a terrorist attack...there are no reports of bombs...oh my god oh my's on fire...we're receiving images now..."

I raced into my office building, and ran right into the media department, where people were clustered around Frank---the media guy---and his television. The television he used to edit our helpful little instructional videos. The silly television we watched the silly video in which our coworkers either goofed, spoofed, or woodenly acted out their parts...was that the end of last week? Was there popcorn?

I stood in horror and watched Tower 1 on fire, and then like a movie, it was TV, it wasn't real, I watched a plane glide into Tower 2, the south one, oh so smoothly. I really expected to see it glide through the other side. I really did, just like that, with no harm, like a movie. But instead, eruption. We all gasped. The head of our division made no sound at all until she said, "My son works at the top of Tower 2. I need to go call him."

Yes, we were still thinking that...that we could call, and be reassured, and all would be well.

We all broke up, and went to call...whoever...or do...whatever. Sit in shock I imagine.

I turned on my little radio for news, and heard there were two or three more planes. "One is believed to be headed for the Financial District. All people in that district should evacuate," the monotone voice told me.

My husband. My husband works there. My heart was too frightened and too shocked to hammer in my chest. It would beat, hitch, beat, hitch.

I called. I told him what was going on.

"I know, I heard, I saw," he told me. Then he said something he never has, "I'm scared."

"They said there's another plane, and it's heading for you," I said, my breath hitching into a sob, as it all hit me. "They say you should leave your building, I think you should."

Then I heard they were shutting down the subways and commuter trains. I started to tell him, but he said, "Hang on, hon, someone is banging on our door...what the..."

I heard a loud, angry man's voice yelling, "By order of the police and fire EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY, GET OUT NOW, please leave this building and this area of the city...if anyone is handicapped, you must assist them or tell us now, we have to move on...are there any other offices on this floor?"

Despite these loud orders, they hesitated.

I said to my husband, "Hang up NOW and RUN! RUN! Get to the trains! I'll meet you at..."

And he said, okay. Just like that.

I tried to be cool. I tried to act like it wasn't making me hysterical, but it was. I wanted to do something but I was powerless.

I asked my boss if I could leave, go pick up my husband at the train stop, and she said, sure. Do whatever. Nobody will be working much today, I'm afraid.

I felt like a fool, the only one who felt like the world was falling apart. Everyone else appeared so together. All I could think was, whatever else, this is a tragedy, but so huge, so unbelievable, I can tell, more bad things will come next.

The news reports were garbled and confusing, and it seemed one minute we were at further risk and the next, not at all. I kept telling myself to calm down, we didn't know anything. It could be nothing. I kept trying to call my husband's cell phone but couldn't reach him. The circuits were all busy.

I arrived at the train depot. Crowds of people gathered. We were all hoping our loved one made it out of the city, made it home. An older lady came up to me. "When are you due?" she asked, trying to smile. "Two and a half months," I told her, although it ended up being less. We gave up trying to talk of normal things.

"Did you see it hit?" she asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Who are you waiting for?" she asked.

"My husband," I told her, "And you?"

"My husband and my son," she said.

And then we didn't know what else to say, but she took my hand and held it and said, "It'll be okay. He'll be on the train."

The train came very slowly, pulled in to the station carefully, not the usual screech and slam. You can't imagine. I've never seen anything like it. It was so full of people, some hung onto the rails on the sides. They were crammed, and silent. Cattle car.

Hundreds, literally, of people spilled out of the train. I watched and waited.

The lady beside me inhaled and smiled, "There they are!" and ran to greet her family.

I watched and waited. A thousand scenarios in my head. My husband was too late, and missed the train. He got there, but it was too crowded and he gave his space to someone else. Anything he might do. I felt angry with fate, I need him, I thought. I need him now. I tried to calm myself. People were still coming off. I felt it less likely now. He wouldn't have gotten there so quick as to be in the interior of the train.

But I underestimated his speed. There he was, one of the last people off. He walked towards me, almost as pale as our wedding day. Still, I was beyond glad to see his face. I was relieved, grateful, guilty, happy, worried. We hugged, and said, let's go, let's go home.

We watched the news like everyone else. We saw everything that happened on TV. My husband listened to the news casts and scoffed, "Those buildings will fall, it's a fact." We prayed there was enough time to get everyone out. We thought it could happen.

Then I started thinking about everyone. Everyone I knew there. And we tried, off and on, to call people. None of whom we reached, not that day, or the next. Eventually, two to three days later, news of people, our specific people, started tricklng in. Friends, cousins, relatives. But those stories are their own.

You all know the rest.

That day was pivotol for our lives. It changed a lot. We weren't in NYC, so it isn't really our story. We have a story about that day, like everyone else, but the tragedy? It isn't ours personally. I feel almost ashamed to have the strong feelings that I do, the feeling of being a part of it, anyway, despite it not being mine.

So I hate talking about this, but every now and again, for some reason, I need to. I'm sure I'll get my blockers right back up and will go back to saying, "Next week? Let me check my calendar, it seems like there is something that, hmm, nothing...well good, let's schedule it!"

But for others, people for whom it is a real anniversary, not the date that the world shifted on its axis, but the date their world collapsed, at least for a little while...may I say, I hope strength, peace and caring sustain you.

I won't note the date. I'll probably post about my kids on that day. It'll probably end up being subconscious, an affirmation of living on, going forward. But you'll have read this and you'll know.

By Julie Pippert
Artful Media Group
Museum Quality Digital Art and Photography
Limited Edition Prints
Artful by Nature Fine Art and Photography Galleries

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.