Saturday, June 30, 2007

Greedy and shallow...or just human...

At the wedding of Vasilii the Dark, Sofia Vitovtovna pulls the belt from Prince Vasilii Kosoi.

This work was painted by Pavel Chistyakov in 1861 and won him the Gold Medal of the Imperial Academy of Arts. Now it may be seen in the State Russian Museum.

The Great Feudal War in Muscovy started on the day of Vasili II's wedding, February 8, 1433. His mother, Sofia Vitovtovna, present at the wedding, recognized that Vasily the Cross-Eyed wore a golden belt which had formerly belonged to her father-in-law, Dmitry Donskoi. Accusing Vasili of stealing, she solemnly pulled the belt from the bewildered prince. Disgusted with such a greed on Sofia's part, Vasili's father Yuriy of Zvenigorod left the capital and declared the war. Source: Wikipedia

I want a lot of things.

I realize I ought to be appreciative of what I have, and I am. The two things---wanting and appreciating---are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes I feel an achy hunger inside me and I think, I was born hungry and will spend my life mentally and emotionally dieting, as well as physically dieting. It's a terrible thing to be born hungry sometimes.

Today I am tired of fighting to be a better person, a good person. Today my uglies are hanging out, like a purple paisely thong out of acid wash low-riders.

Today I am willing to say what I want instead of counting my blessings. Today I will feel no guilt about it.

Today it's okay to admit I feel stressed, anxious, and not in charge sometimes. Today it's okay to admit that although I generally am pretty close to having my act together, sometimes, underneath, it's really a rat in a wheel running this shell of a person. Today I don't mind admitting that all isn't hunky dory and I don't need to put on the hunky dory act.

I don't want to play the hunky dory game today.

I will tell you what I do want.

1. I want Darfur fixed. I don't want any more carnage that makes me question my species.

2. I want every parent to be able to properly care for their children, all needs provided for. I don't want parents who want to parent their children unable to do so, or live life with an every day despairing fear that someone else could do it better.

3. I want more money. Not a ton. Enough. I know, what's enough? Here it is
* I want enough that my husband doesn't leave our house every day hollow-eyed from overwork because he's too afraid to take five minutes off for fear it puts him in layoff jeopardy.

* I want enough that our family can afford to go out, and go places, and do fun things. And I want to be able to do it without guilt.

* I want savings accounts that are full and college accounts that are growing.

* I want to be able to buy organic products and not worry that this will put us over budget.

* I want to be able to do the repairs on our house that we need to do.

* I just want enough that we can live as we ought to. I don't want or need a country club membership or jet set life. I just want enough to easily take care of the needs, and the simple and reasonable wants.

4. I want to wake up in the morning without the fear of the sky falling.

5. I want a vacation. No, two. One for the family, and one for me and my husband.

6. I want to be able to afford to provide the education Patience needs.

7. I want a massage, and enough time and money to resume my yoga and dance classes.

8. I want to be healthy again. I don't want this sickness or these changes. I want my energy and my health back. I don't want to be the most expensive person and highest need person in my family any longer.

9. I want to be able to go to BlogHer.

10. I want to know what I want to be when I grow up.

11. I want to be able to go to the doctor---or anywhere else that costs, which feels like everywhere---and pay without feeling nausea roil in my stomach.

12. I want more patience. When bad things happen---as they will---I don't want to feel angry instead of feeling powerless.

That'll do, donkey, that'll do.

Do you have wants and wishes?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Because if you can't laugh at yourself...

This post is a little disjointed because, I think, this week has felt disjointed, no wait, I have felt disjointed in this week. I've been too many people going in too many different directions all at once.

So, in times like these I take my humor where I can get it...and I got it a lot this week. I decided to share, in honor of it being Friday, the day before the weekend...what I used to call the Last Day of Work before WOO HOO the Weekend but now I just call Friday. LOL

1. Dam Beavers

On Thursday I had to drive into the city using the highways. This is highly annoying for many reasons, one of which is the monstrously offensive bumper stickers many drivers here have---such as, "Don't like English? GO HOME!" and "Bush Cheney Let's Do It Again America!"

So I look for the Happy Messages that affirm my world view instead. Happy happy. All is happy for Julie in Julie's World. La La La.

That's when I saw it. The big white truck with huge message splayed across the back:

League City, Texas
"All your beaver needs is a little cleaning."

2. More beaver (pot)shots

While hunting for beaver photos to illustrate the above story, I ran across:

And I had to put it up, just in caseLaura, Chookooloonks, or Kyla dropped by.

3. The ways in which people round these parts know I'm not a native

So it came up last night while we were out to eat that when you move into a new region, sometimes it is hard to know the proper local pronunciation of things.

I am notorious for this, for mangling local words, that is. Here, anyway. I do all right in most other parts of the world.

My two most famous happened only last month, in May, in public thankyouverymuch.

I mentioned in May that I had my last fundraiser of the season thankgod. I was in charge of the silent auction. So I stood guard over the valuables, by which I mean I remained sociable and available to answer any questions from bidders. We had a large number of tickets to really cool area events, including a pack for a large group to go to a popular comedy club. The club recently moved locations and is on a new street, so several people had questions about where it was. I didn't know; I still don't know the area here. But I gave it my best shot.

"It's on a street called..." I paused, licked my lips and gave it a go, "Fewkwah."

"I don't think I know this street," the lady told me.

" about Fuckwa?" I asked.

"ExCUUUSE me?" the lady said.

"Fuckwa?" I tried again.

My friend Stacy snorted and snickered behind me. The lady looked something between confused and offended.

"I'm sure I don't know that street!" she said.

I turned around and saw Stacy and my other friend Melissa clutching their sides laughing.

"Ummm...F U Q U A," I tried spelling it.

The lady pursed her lips and brows trying to follow.

"Or," my friend Stacy interjected between laughs, "For those of us who are FROM HERE it's FEW KWAY."

"No way!" I said, "Shut up. It doesn't look like that at all! FEW KWAY. Are you sure?"

Everyone consensually agreed that yes, it was FEW KWAY not FUCKWA. And they all looked at me like I had been smoking the funny weed.

Melissa said, "Oh my God, Julie, this is even funnier than the time when we were getting the grant and you called 'EL HARDEEN' 'LE ZHARDAN' to the city council!"

Fuqua. El Jardin. How would you say that?

And finally...not so much a funny story as a request...

4. Sometimes a standard is a really good idea

After all my business was concluded on Thursday, I met my husband for lunch. On the way out we stopped by the restrooms and it occurred to me that we have a serious problem in this country: a lack of consistency for bathroom sides.


When you walk into the bathroom hallway, which is it: left? or right?

It varies!

This leads to that incredibly awkward moment of pausing in the doorway to the hall, with the entire dining room at your back, and glancing both left and right to ascertain which way to go for your gender.

Even worse is when restaurants get cutsey and use funny symbols, odd hard-to-read fonts, and foreign languages to say "men" and "women."

Who enjoys that WHOOPS, that's not a skirt on the figure on the door, it's a PONCHO and this is the BOY'S ROOM times? Not me. Thanks.

So. I'd like to request a standard.

Public Bathroom Standards:

Women, left. Men, right.

Arial or Roman style font, all cap and large (for visually impaired) and Men for men, and Women for women.


Although at least this figure is clear---and not accessorized with something like a poncho (which obscures the gender, trust me)---a non-skirted figure doesn't need to mean Man. So a distinct figure like this is okay but can we also put the gender name by it? Please? Thanks.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

More Secrets and Lies...with karma on top

Did you see? More people told us what they think when they think about secrets and lies...

This is the original list, plus some completely fresh links! And then...what I thought up for next week.

Emily wrote Bathe Your Children Well

She also wrote Lies All Lies

Chani wrote Hide and Seek

Did you catch...

Andrea wrote Digging

Sober Briquette wrote Taradiddle


Gwen wrote The Ruins

Snoskred wrote The choices we make

Sephyroth wrote Fear of Failure

I have checked comments and email but (a) it's 5 a.m. (b) my mind is in a million busy directions and (c) I can get too easily confused sometimes if I missed you, I am very sorry and consider me slapped with a wet noodle. Email me or comment and I will add in your link with tremendous fanfare. If you still want to play, do the same and I will do the same. But please have patience with me. It will be later this afternoon or evening because I'm out all day.

(I am so very glad to see you guys, first time and new participants. This week you have all humbled me with your amazing posts.)

Next week...

Discuss the concept of karma, and what you think of its role in justice, injustice, and forgiveness. Be as general and conceptual or as personal as you like...whatever keeps you feeling comfortable and motivated.

Looking forward to it...

copyright all text and images 2007 Julie Pippert. Do not use without permission and credit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A post of actual value

I've been meaning to stretch my wings and find some new blogs. I got a little stuck in expecting Technorati to prompt me to go read my favorites, complete with convenient links and notices. But then Technorati let me down. I discovered it wasn't telling me when a large number of my faves had updated. So I was missing out! Sometimes by several posts! The horror! The drama!

Also---and this is no reflection on my favorites---I started getting a little interested in what else, and who else, is out there.

So I've begun clicking links and wowsa there's some good stuff. And I've noticed some familiar names commenting on these blogs so I see you've all been holding out on me in some not taking me by the ear and guiding me around the blogosphere I guess. LOL

Okay so on my completely random link-following bloghunt/Webhunt today I've found:

1. Work at Home Mom Revolution---this blog is the answer to Her Bad Mother and Gingajoy's questioning comments at BlogRhet

She turned me on to MIT's OpenCourseWare. I love free stuff, esecially free Ivy League education in the comfort of my own PJs at home. This is

a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.


* Is a publication of MIT course materials
* Does not require any registration
* Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
* Does not provide access to MIT faculty

Now, although my heart yearns in the direction of women's studies, anthropology and the oh-so-very intriguing Writing and Humanistic Studies (doesn't it just swell like music when you say it aloud?), I am instead perusing things such as "Competitive Decision Making and Negotiating" at the Sloan School of Management. Maybe I can treat myself with "Humanistic Perspectives on Medicine: From Ancient Greece to Modern America" like a dessert each time I make it through a meaty course.

2. Problogger tells me my recent change of having my comments open in a new window is annoying. What do you think? Should I switch it back? Do you guys multi-task with tons of open windows of stuff?

3. Avitable started a fund for NYCWatchDog, who recently lost his 5 year old son in a swimming accident.

4. Pink is not just for breasts any more. Now it also stands for peace.

5. Pew Charitable Trusts put out their State of the Blogosphere (or, more accurately, "Society and the Internet--- Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers") a year ago. I wonder how things have changed---or not---in the last year.

You know, BlogRhet friends, they grant grants for research in this area. Maybe that's the second answer to the GingaJoy and Her Bad Mother questions.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Hump Day Hmm: Keeping secrets, telling lies

La Bocca della Verità (in English, "the Mouth of Truth") is a renowned image, carved from Pavonazzetto marble, of a man-like face and located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy. The most famous characteristic of the Mouth is its role as a lie detector; since the Middle Ages, folklore has asserted that if one told a lie with his hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off. Source: Wikipedia, free license to distribute.

I've written four posts about this topic---I'm not kidding, and you'll know this because someday I might be in a bind and post a "variations on a theme of secrets and lies" series for a week, and you'll all be, "Umm, wow, wasn't that topic like so last week, Julie?" and "I'll say, yeah whatever, the old writer's block I claim I never get has kicked in, it and like it, or weep, either way, but leave comments because mama needs some good lovin' right now."---and all of them have been vastly different, and yet, true. Mostly. Still, none seemed right.

Version 1: In which I share, vaguely, a lot that I haven't shared in an example of the different sorts of secrets and lies we keep and why

Version 2: In which I try like crazy to put forth a sweet and sentimental anecdote to show my journey of self-discovery and evolution through finding a balance within what to keep and what to share.

Version 3: In which I depict secrets and lies I've kept and told, ones from other people, the repurcussions of all and what I've learned with a bonus on my theory of secrets and why people keep them.

Version 4: In which I discuss the difference between secrets and privacy, the application of each broadly and generally, with personal anecdotes thrown in, and my approach to when something ought to be kept secret versus not, including an easy to follow litmus test.

So. Dudes. I got nothing.

However, there is good news:

Other people wrote very movingly about this topic, so go see what they had to say.

Emily wrote Bathe Your Children Well

She also wrote Lies All Lies

Chani wrote Hide and Seek

Andrea wrote Digging

Sober Briquette wrote Taradiddle

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's always just a day at the beach

Hump Day Hmm Due WEDNESDAY (that's tomorrow) and it's a humdinger...

Have you kept a secret or have you lied, directly or by omission, about something big? How did you make your decision---did it bring about justice? How did forgiveness fit in (or not)? Would you do it the same next time?

OR flip it and have it be someone kept a secret or lied to you.

Or both.

Or neither, and just talk about it in general, in principle...for example, discuss a time an important leader lied to people he or she represented.

And feel free to give me feedback about this topic or suggest one.

And now a little meme fun first from TMI Tuesday:

1. If you were to face the Wizard of Oz, would you want more courage, more brains, or more heart?

Right now, I'd ask for more courage. I'd actually want more confidence and bravery, but I'd hope courage would be a package that encompassed those. I've spent the last few years having my rear soundly kicked by life, and lately on the inside---and uncomfortably even sometimes on the outside---I've felt like a cringy, whiny little girl who just wants to curl up in the fetal position and have her mommy.

I've always prided myself (there you go: pride, my first problem LOL) on my courage (and heart and brains) and how I wouldn't need anything from a wizard.

But sometimes life can easily yank that pedestal out from under you.

So here I am, at the wizard's, hat in hand. ;)

The funny thing is that what the wizard really offers is to help you see what you had inside all along so I'll take that too.

2. Have you ever gone to court for anything? What for?

No. Well, jury duty.

3. What was the last thing you did that you previously told yourself you wouldn't do?

Do you know, this is a large part of my every day? I either set expectations too high or cave too often, LOL.

But they are small things, usually.

Yesterday I said:

While at the grocery store I'm not going to buy any cookies. I did.

I also said I wasn't going to buy anything not on the list. I did. Some things were good deals.

I also said I was not going to have buttons that the kids could push, would not lose my temper or patience. I did. I had no sooner picked up Patience from camp at noon and she started in and I felt that irritation flare. I kept my cool outwardly, for the most part, but she and her sister continued on their tornadic path of destruction so by the time my husband got home I was this close (fingers pressed together) to Parenting like a Fishwife, and when I finally went on backup duty so I could fold the 25 baskets of laundry, and things got worse, I did it. I lost my cool and yelled.

4. Did you ever have a summer fling while on vacation?

Yes. God how cliched. Spring Break. At the beach. However, because this is me we are talking about here, I brought him home as a long-term serial monogomy boyfriend.

5. Have you ever done anything sexual with someone who's name you never knew?

Nope. Truly.

Bonus (as in optional): What is the best way to mend a broken heart?

Time. Own the grief, and then keep putting one foot in front of the other.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Grand Canyon or small crack? The divide between cyber and corporeal life

In a game called World of Warcraft, players play live and form guilds (groups) to achieve goals within the game. They instant message one another within the game, and form personal friendships as well as character alliances. Although death in the game is simply a temporary setback that might cost points or winnings, in real life it is a permanent state. One guild sadly lost a fellow member in real life to a stroke. They decided to express their grief together in an online memorial.

A rival guild somehow found out about the plans.

As the grieving guild gathered, laying down their weapons and honoring their lost friend, the rival guild attacked, killing them all, while typing messages such as, "LOL! OWNED!" and other smugly triumphant words.

One player created a video of the entire event, messages and opinions flew around Internet boards, threats and retaliatory plans were issued, and a number of players were banned.

I heard about this on the radio news Friday morning while driving downtown. Because I'm not a gamer, I am unaware of gamer protocol and etiquette, but this struck me as really, really wrong.

I do play on the Internet, in message forums and blogs. I generally use my real name, although I have used a "nom de plume" for message boards. I stuck to the name I enrolled with, and remained true to myself whether using my real or assumed name. I don't post anonymously in order to be cruel or use the Internet as a shield to do whatever I want. I believe in the principle that "wherever you go, there you are and what you do follows."

Then again, I am representing myself online, not a character in a game.

And how different might that be?

My husband says very, very different.

I tend to think that online gamers are mostly adolescent males or those with that sort of mentality.

My husband says this is not the case in all games, although it is generally the case in the game in question (World of Warcraft). He plays a game called Eve, which he says tends to attract grown-ups. He's met people from all over the world, most of whom seem to be academics.

Regardless, all of the games seem to be focused on stalking, hunting and killing fellow players, while stealing their valuables. It simply doesn't appeal to me, on that basis alone.

My husband believes it is simply a fun outlet. I think it encourages a mode of thinking that is unproductive in real life. I can't believe that people can so segment their personalities as to never act as themselves in the game, or as their character might in real life.

I am especially concerned about how it might affect the forming morals and mentality of young people who are in the process of maturing. This concern escalates when you consider that the Internet interactions can supplant real life ones; take over the time and relationships one might form in the real world as one's self.

Players had a lot to say about this idea and the event in which mourners were killed in the game.

This opinion supports my concern:

In all seriousness, the fact that her horde and other friends mourned a real life death is pretty surreal. I mean, they know this girl, but they didn't really know her. This just goes to show that you that games are starting to simulate life every day. The fact that the other horde decided to crash this funeral to gain some PvP time holds the same bearings as the funeral. It shows that human beings are ruthless, and will do anything to gain any advantage at any time, whether it be in real life or the virtual WoW world.

While these two support my husband's opinion:

You don't bring real life into a game, no matter what the circumstances. In game, they were justified in ambushing a large gathering of...the ENEMY faction. Anyone who cries foul on this needs to stick their face on an electric range for ten minutes.

I agree, games are to escape somewhat from real life, to do things you cant do in real life. You shouldnt bring games into real life and go down the street and fire into traffic, and likewise you shouldnt bring real life into games.

And then there were the scary ones, such as

They wouldn't have the balls to do that at a real funeral.

...and that's what separates the Men from the Boys ;)

Living online has expanded beyond simple message boards, blogs, and games; now you can also have a virtual life in Second Life. Run just like "real life" players have avatars who have jobs, wardrobes, homes, cars, and so forth. Players make a living as real estate developers, architects, interior decorators, musicians, bankers, restaurateurs, and even event planners. Characters hold cyber weddings and more. Players earn salaries in real money---that's real, not virtual---money, which sometimes exceeds their real life job earnings.

People are living out fantasies online. Online we can form relationships, earn a living, and even try experiences not possible in real life.

So where is the boundary? How does the cyber life affect the real life, and vice versa?

Do we carry aspects of ourselves, even suppressed ones, into the virtual world? And once unleashed online, does it open up a trigger to that in real life?

Consider the case of the virtual rape in Second Life.

In April, the Brussels public prosecutor dispatched detectives to investigate a virtual rape in Second Life.

In her article, "Virtual Rape is Traumatic, but is it a Crime?" Regina Lynn of Wired wrote

Adult communities facilitate our need to go deeper into our sexual selves, even into secret places around gender and taboos that we cannot acknowledge anywhere else. We feel safe because of the peculiar blend of disclosure and anonymity provided in online communities, and we journey along paths we might not even glance at in the physical world. We don't expect to have our control wrenched away or our minds assaulted or even the intensity of our anguish during and after.

The truth is, anywhere people gather, we bring all of our potential with us -- for love, for sex, for community and creation, and for violence and destruction, too. That's why we still enjoy pondering whether cybersex is real sex and whether an online affair is more or less damaging to a relationship than a physical affair. It's a tacit acknowledgement that while the time-space continuum may change, people don't.

(emphasis mine)

I believe this is true, whether you are blogging or creating an avatar (that in no way resembles you, with a name not your own) in some virtual world. Wherever we go, we carry who we are: our potential.

And what of our interactions with others?

Lynn expressed it well when she wrote, "We feel safe because of the peculiar blend of disclosure and anonymity provided in online communities, and we journey along paths we might not even glance at in the physical world."

Moving between real life and cyber life requires no passports; it requires only a shift in thinking.

In fact, a shift in thinking is exactly what the Internet can effect. How many of us have realized new truths, altered how we think, or chosen a different course of action due to something we read or experienced online? People consider their online experiences a real part of life, and often shift schedules and time to accommodate the activity. Our interactions with others online can be integral to our sense of self and our development.

I've heard it said time and again that the Internet won't bring different interactions to you than you find in real life. The emotions you feel are very real, and reflect how you feel about similar things in real life. As Lynn wrote, "...while the time-space continuum may change, people don't."

For example, when I read an article that expresses exactly how I feel about an issue, the blossom of relief that someone else gets it is very real. I do feel a degree of bond with this person on this issue.

My emotions don't distinguish reading these things on a blog from hearing these things from a real life friend.

My mind is a little more logical. Nevertheless, once I feel a bond has been formed with another person online, I have to be very careful to consider whether it is a bond of commonality or a bond of friendship.

This gets even more complicated when the online interaction becomes truly interactive and regular, especially if it is frequent, or moves off the main source of interaction (such as into private messages).

When a regular commenter suddenly vanishes and quits commenting on my blog, but continues to post and comment elsewhere, it feels a bit like being dumped and the hurt feeling of rejection is very real.

Of course I can logically remind myself that this is blogging not friendship, and people get busy and move on in interest, etc. I can console myself by saying, it wasn't me, it was an article on a page, like in a magazine...the interest moved on from my topics, not me, who I am. Although my words might be different than ones I use in real life, the method of consolation is similar. In this way, once again, I believe who we are comes through each experience, cyber or corporeal.

In games where you build a character---one that I believe in some way always reflects who you want to be or wish you were---it is even more difficult to separate the real you from the virtual you. The real person can feel slights and accolades to their avatar as strongly as if they had happened in real life.

It might be virtual, but it is, in a way, simply reality on a different plane. It's not just how you think of online and your investment in the online world; it's also a matter of the type of person you are.

The danger lurks behind the very features we laud and desire online: increasingly real looks, interaction and time. These features make it increasingly difficult to distinguish real from cyber in one's mind, but more especially in one's heart.

"It's becoming harder and harder to draw a distinction between the real world and the virtual world," said Lauren Weinstein, creator of an online discussion group called the Privacy Forum. "They've become so intertwined now that most of the same problems and risks that we associate with the real world are coming from the virtual side — and a whole lot of them that nobody thought of." Source: New York Times

At some point, we can cross a boundary online, and it's no longer just a name you cross frequently, now this is a person you really care about.

You can easily form true friendships. I count some people I met online among my best friends. The online friendships moved into real life, with real life meetings, as well.

You can also form true relationships. In the case of online affairs, when the emotion is real, ultimately it can become irrelevant whether it is a real encounter or a cyber one. I know marriages that have ended over cyber affairs. That's as real as it gets.

Online life is not exclusive to recreation and personal life, anymore, either. It now extends to professional life, and includes the even more mind-bending virtual reality.

U.S. Navy personnel using a virtual reality parachute trainer.

There is online and virtual medical training in virtual environments, flight training, role playing, cross-continent online meetings, Internet conferences, even psychological treatment of phobias using virtual worlds, and more.

In fact, online personas and hearsay can affect your real professional life, according to the stories of real people in New York Times article "When Online Hearsay Intrudes on Real Life."

Brock N. Meeks, a journalist in Washington, believes that his activities in the virtual world sometimes held him back in his real-world job searches.
The online persona established him as a dogged, sharp commentator. But more than once, he said, when he applied for jobs at national newspapers, editors who knew of his online work were wary. He said an editor at The Washington Post told him, "I expected an angry old guy."

We are growing more and more accustomed to using the online world to work and function within the real world. Using emails or instant messages to communicate is as likely, if not more so, than using the telephone. Using video conferencing is more likely than traveling to meet face-to-face. As the power and realistic elements of online life grow, the line between cyber and real is getting fuzzier. Most people are unable to segment themselves so fully as to completely distance and disassociate themselves from cyber life, as is evidenced by the real grief of the online players of the warcraft game who lost not some avatar on a screen, but someone who felt like a real friend.

Other players can say it's not real, but is.

And I'm not even sure that complete disassociation from online experience should be a goal. If the emotion is real, then the benefits gained from the online interaction can be real too.

Perhaps we need to alter our vocabulary and eliminate the word real when discussing life. Perhaps we should consider calling it cyber and corporeal life and acknowledge that both are all too real. Therefore, we must be careful where we put ourselves online, and consider our actions even more carefully. They do reflect our real life, and can affect it too.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Friday, June 22, 2007

NBC...any interest in interviewing a suburban mom after a jail stint?

Dear NBC Executives,

The rumor mill just spit out some grist to the alleged effect that you have won a network bidding battle for rights to interview Paris Hilton as she exits jail next week. Further grist has it that you are paying her $1 million (which is up from the $750,000 I heard on NPR this morning) for the rights (are they rights? Privileges? just wondering...). I hear it's not even exclusive, just first priority.

If a few days in jail---in an isolated VIP cell---can net a person close to a million dollars for one interview, allow me to express my willingness to serve some time.

Frankly, the thought of utter isolation for 5-10 days sounds like a vacation to this overworked mom.

Therefore, I'm here to offer you a one-time opportunity for the rights to interview me upon my departure from jail.

I prefer to not commit a crime---it goes against my ethics---but possibly we could frame it as "Undercover Mom Serves Time while Getting the Dirt on What Goes on Behind Bars." (If "cougar" markets better, I am willing to concede that, but under duress as I am opposed to the term, and do not qualify because I am not rich.)

You network people like that dirt part, don't you?

I'm sure you'll have a preconceived angle. I'm willing to flow with that but it will cost you an extra $50,000 for each departure from the truth that you want.

I'm not as young, pretty, or aimless as Paris, nor am I famous for no reason (or any reason, actually) but thanks to that new reality TV show I hear 40 is the new twenty and nearly middle-aged women are considered pretty hot. I'm willing to get a full wardrobe and self makeover (at your expense, and I keep it all). Plus, I can read, and have even been known to write a little.

I hope I have come across as greedy, self-serving, amoral, and dirt-mongering as you like. If not, please know I am perfectly able to tone it up four to five notches. Or more. As needed.

Sincerely, Julie Pippert

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What did you just say? Talking to parents about their kids...

If you were given to understatement, you might say it was indicative of a communication failure, wherein the destination person was overcome by communication noise of some sort.

The other day I had a conversation that was shocking and upsetting. Someone wanted to express concerns to me about my child.

"Hey, I've been wondering," the person said to me, "Did you ummm, you know, get all the tests done for Patience? Did you find out anything?"

"Tests?" I asked in confusion, thinking hard, "Oh, oh right, the hearing test. Yeah, yeah we saw the audiologist at the ENT and everything was fine."

"That's good news," the other person said, "But, actually, I was talking about The Tests."

I thought harder, and was silent for a minute.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I'm not sure what you mean."

"The symptoms," she said insistently, "The ones you were so worried about. So you were taking Patience to get evaluated."

"Ohhhh," I said, "The strephosymbolia! Well, yeah we did get her checked, but it's so inconclusive at this age. Anyway, they did say she wasn't distinguishing frontwards from backwards, so they gave us exercises. We've been doing them and it's great...she's fine, knows front from back now, so it's worked out really well. The good news is we did this now, so she should be all set for kindergarten."

"No," she said impatiently, "Not that." She dropped her voice, "The autism. All of Patience's behavior and problems...the ones that are symptoms of autism. You were so worried, you were planning to take her and get her evaluated. We talked about it, I thought it was a good idea."

You could have knocked me over with a feather I was that shocked.

Patience doesn't have any symptoms of autism. I've never worried about her and autism. I've never told anybody I was going to get her evaluated for it, because there is no point. It's simply never come up before this. Not one other person who knows Patience has ever even wondered.

Now you've heard me talk about Patience, child of my heart, child of my who does not fall far from the tree, but who does her level best to escape its boundaries as often as possible. My clever, creative scientist who can out-think me with one brain lobe tied behind her back.

I've mentioned her slightly persnickety personality: her solid personal boundaries, her slow-to-warmness, her distant and quiet act around some people. How in some ways, she's like a cat: best to not approach too quickly or loudly, but if you sit back and are calm and patient, she'll come to you and what a wonderful thing that is.

But I've never said Patience and autism in any way that links the two.

This is because I do not have this concern. And never have.

That's why I was so surprised during this conversation.

"Uhhh whuuuuuuu???" I squeaked.

The other person was certain I had expressed concern, and had said I was getting her evaluated this past spring.

"Ummmm....noooo," I said, then, more definitely, "No, she hasn't got anything that makes me, or anyone, think autism."

The person was positive I had been concerned about her behavior, her symptoms, all of which screamed autism, this person said.

I felt a weird sense of surreality. Was this a backwards approach of this person trying to tell me that she had concerns?

"No," I said, quite emphatically, "You are mistaken. You must be thinking of someone else. There's absolutely no reason to think she has any form of autism, I've never worried about it, and there was not and is not any need to evaluate it."

The person would not back down. The person was quite definite.

"I probably did talk about autism a lot this past spring," I conceded, "But not about my family, my kids. I was editing a book about autism, publishing it, getting it ready for market. It's a great book, for kids about kids with autism. I probably did talk about that a lot because I think it's a great book. And I might have mentioned that the author has a son who is PDD-NOS, and that the reviewer's son is autistic too, might have mentioned that we had children test this book, some of whom were autistic. But any was all about the book."

The other person simply said hmm, in a way that clearly communicated disbelief, among other things.

I don't have a problem with autism. I've met a number of kids on the spectrum and through that, and my research, I learned a lot, corrected a lot of mistaken ideas I held. I've gained a tremendous respect for these kids and their parents. I've learned about real symptoms of it, and real potential for kids who have it. I'm no expert, but I'm no ignoramous, either.

All that said, I hope you can understand how bewildered I was that this person had decided that some of my daughter's quirks and characteristics could be twisted around to fit an autism diagnosis. And that I was simply in denial about it.

I imagine somewhere, at heart, it came from a caring place, this concern. But it was erroneous and unsolicited input, and once I had clarified, she should have apologized and backed down.

But it got me thinking. I have always maintained that parents ought to be open to hearing what others might feel compelled to express---from a concerned and loving place---about their child, especially if it has to do with the best interests of the child.

In this case---the first time it happened to me---though, I was not open; I was confused, annoyed, even a little angry and offended. I refused to even pause and ponder---which truthfully, in this case, I don't need to---but it did immediately negate my assumptive philosophy that I---and all parents---ought to be willing to listen.

It's hard to talk to parents about their kids when it comes to worries. I know. I've been on the other side of the fence and it's cost me a friendship. In that case, it began with the school and involved one child bullying Patience, which created an enormous amount of emotional havoc for everyone. Initially, the teacher tried to handle it on her own in the classroom. She alerted me and the school director that there was an issue, and we agreed that her Plan A was good. Still, it failed, as did Plans B, C, D, E, and F. The only solution is to keep the two children separate.

Once Patience was out of the picture, the main target was gone, and it became clear this was more than an issue between two children; this was a widespread behavior problem. Other children were being bothered too, although they kept quiet about it.

In fact, after our experience, another mother happened to carefully ask her child about this child, and found out about some serious bullying incidents. More serious than with Patience, who never let it get There because she said no, told the teacher about it, and got help.

(Earlier this week, I mentioned it suddenly occured to me that children often do not tell, no matter how open a door we may think we create. We all wondered after Monday's post about keeping secrets from parents, will my child not tell me things and if so, how do I get in and find out anyway? I think the answer is to ask ask ask and ask, with occasional interrogating.)

We did try, individually and also officially to open a conversation with the mother of the child who had been bullying, but she denied everything and refused to discuss it.

So it's true, parents are often unapproachable when it comes to problems with their kids, and many stick their heads in the sand, at least for a while---I prefer to call it Processing Time rather than denial.

I'm not in denial, though. If multiple people I knew and trusted had on a variety of different occasions approached me with worries or observations about one of my kids, I would force myself to sit, listen, and think. I think most parents do. In fact, often it is parents paying attention first, and working hard to convince others to take it seriously.

But there is such a fine line, such a delicate balance in who approaches the parent, how they approach, when they approach, and the subject matter to be discussed.

I believe dialogue and outside input can be helpful and valuable to parents and kids, however, there are boundaries, and approaches that will and won't work. While I concede that individual personalities and circumstances are crucial factors, I think there must be some general guidelines that could help us all were we to find ourselves in the position of wanting to discuss a child with his/her parent.

Has anyone ever approached you, concerned about your child? How did they approach you, and what was your reaction?

Have you ever approached another parent about his/her child? How did you approach the other parents and what was his/her reaction?

What guidelines, lessons learned can you share?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hump Day Hmm: Accident of birth

If I wanted to, I could call everything about me an accident of birth.

At birth, very little was known of me other than the fact that I was not a boy, as my parents had been repeatedly assured I would be. Gazing at their little girl, my parents wondered what to do next. They had only a boy name chosen, and all my baby clothes, blankets, decor, etc. were blue.

They observed that, in addition to being female, I was also

dark haired
blue eyed
fair skinned
gifted with a healthy set of lungs

Perhaps because the chosen boy's name began with J, they focused on girl J names, somehow settling on Julie which was only slightly less popular than Jennifer.

Armed with a trendy girlie name and blue accessories, I revealed more about myself:

decent sleeper although tremendous early bird
mainly affable
good appetite
all parts in working order

But who was I? What could I do? Where did I belong?

From that point forward, it gets murkier. What is developed and what is gifted? I am also

reasonably intelligent
better at languages and arts than maths
US citizen
not very limber

These characteristics plus my life situation and experiences make me. I would not---could not---be the person I am under a different set of circumstances.

The life I lead is irrevocably influenced by genetics and the life I was born into: the accidents of birth. The point that it's an accident is crucial: it means there is nothing more worthy about me that brought me blessings and nothing less worthy about me that brought me curses.

Perhaps behind the accident is an intelligent design; regardless, it doesn't display a preference or favor.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed.

Herman Melville, US novelist & sailor (1819 - 1891)

It's funny how I never know how to answer the question, "Where are you from?" even though people have repeatedly told me it's a straightforward thing. My hesitation and uncertainty are often mistaken for hedging and dishonesty. I'm just not sure which place to claim. I usually begin with the place I loved best: Massachusetts' North Shore. I quickly clarify I'm not *from* there; I just lived there a long time and loved it best. I don't think I've ever met a listener of my long, drawn-out explanation of where I am from who understood.

Perhaps I ought to treat it as a rhetorical question, such as, "How are you?" with requisite reply of, "I'm fine thanks."

Therefore, I should select a single city, preferably well-known, and say that.

But which one? Should I say the town of my birth? The town we moved to nine months later? The place we moved a year after that? The various areas of a big city we bounced among? The city we moved to and from where I graduated high school?

I think the real answer to the question is that I am from middle-class America. I think that says it all, and region is almost irrelevant.

Isn't that something, these days, that socioeconomic class binds more than regional culture.

As with any life, though, it all began as an accident of birth. At the end of the day, I still am like any other human being...I just happen to have either similar or different circumstances. But I still breathe air, need food, and work hard to figure out how to do best by my kids with what I have.

“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Read what other bloggers have to say about the Accident of Birth

Snoskred wrote Accident of birth - the SCARY country.

Mary-LUE wrote A Pair of Ducks? No, a Paradox!

Thailand Gal wrote Forgiving an accident of birth?

Lawyer mama wrote Of Privilege and Prejudice

Slouching Mom wrote An Accident of Birth

Sober Briquette wrote The Ugly Duckling

Ally of Zone family wrote Accident of Birth

Emily of Wheels on the Bus wrote Funeral Etiquette

Kim at After the Ball wrote Learning Difficulties

Gwen wrote Preaching to the Choir

Other links related to aspects of this topic I think you ought to read. And because what I think matters above all else (BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!) I hope you will.

Almsgiving or Tipping? Cecilieaux of Shavings Off My Mind tackles whether donations or additional pay are the better method of assistance in overcoming poverty.

The above references a Washington Post article about three members of Congress (the only ones not too pansy-assed to try this) who spent a week living on $21, the equivalent of weekly food stamps. Go read Lawmakers Find $21 a Week Doesn't Buy a Lot of Groceries.

And finally, The Secret, either directly or indirectly, has come up again with this topic. I think it is well known that I---to put it politely and diplomatically---think this is utter shit. So, I'd like to link you to two awesome articles about this:

THE SECRET: Think It and Make It So
By Marianne Williamson

Andrea at A Garden of Nna Mmoy wrote Secrets and Lies

Note: If you have a post you are putting up today or something related, send me the link!

Next week...I'm going to spin off of the above links. Have you kept a secret or have you lied, directly or by ommission, about something big? How did you make your decision---did it bring about justice? How did forgiveness fit in (or not)? Would you do it the same mext time? OR flip it and have it be someone kept a secret or lied to you. Or both. And feel free to give me feedback about this topic or suggest on. This is due NEXT WEDNESDAY.

copyright text and images 2007 Julie Pippert

Monday, June 18, 2007

An ounce of snake is worth a pound of fear

Each time I approach my front door, before I put in the key, I hear scuttling in the bushes to my left, or to my right, or sometimes both. It makes me jump every time, initially up, then in the direction opposite of the noise, and finally as close to the door as I can get. I fumble my keys, trying to unlock the door and get in as quickly as possible. Luckily the kids are always too busy trying to find What Made That Noise to notice my strange tic-like behavior. I also hope the neighbors miss it.

It's most likely an anole or a gecko lizard.

But it might be a snake.

One time it was a snake.

Luckily I have a snake-wrangler friend, and she comes over outfitted and geared-up as if she just bounced over from the Australia Zoo.

She laughed at my terror about "a silly and sweet old something something snake" and picked it up with her bare hands.

She clearly had never been a six year old at Naughty Shelly's house watching a very scary movie about snakes and people turning into snakes, in a dark room reverberating with the creepy soundtrack from the movie. Shelly's big sister and brother were supposed to be watching the kids while the parents were having a Night Out. But the sister had a date, and the brother was resentful. So the sister vanished and the brother turned on the scary movie. Even though I had nightmares for a while afterwards, I never told my parents.

Does it ever strike you how many major impact moments from your youth you never shared with your parents? They have no idea about so many things that shaped me. That gives my parent self huge pause.

Shortly after the scary movie at Naughty Shelly's house---while the terror was still fresh in me---our school had a field trip to a zoo. We had a special tour through the reptile house and got to go into the back area and see even more animals. The teacher kept using that YIPPEE! fake tone that told the kids we had a Privilege and ought to be Happy and Grateful.

The tour guide herpetologist lady took us into an examination room, with a wall of drawers and a large metal table in the center. She pulled open one of the biggest drawers, low down, near the center, and slowly pulled out an enormous snake.

She told us it was a boa constrictor, said it could squeeze a grown-up to death, told us it was longer than two grown-ups. She laughed gleefully while she said this, as if we all ought to be as thrilled as she was. And some children were. They clustered around the table while I slowly slipped further and further back, towards the door, where the teacher stood still.

The snake curled onto the table, then twined around the lady's arm, raising its head as high as her own, and swinging around, looking with its beady eyes at the children around it.

From my point of view it appeared to be choosing who to squeeze.

I took another few steps back.

The snake flicked its tongue.

I took another few steps back.

The lady pried open the snake's jaws, and merrily related how it could open so wide to swallow a huge meal.

I took another few steps back, bumped into the wall, squealed and shot forward. Saw my new proximity to the snake, squealed again, spun and tried to run for the door.

The teacher caught me and steered me back to the table.

The maniacally happy herpetologist noticed me, and my fear, "Come here, little girl," she said, "Come here, nothing to be afraid of, come feel him."

"No, thank you," I said, as politely and firmly as I could through my chattering teeth.

"Oh, I can't let you leave here afraid of snakes!" she cackled, "You come touch this snake, see there's nothing to be afraid of...all your little friends are! Nobody eaten yet!" She cackled again. "So come here."

"No, thank you," I repeated.

The teacher hissed behind me, "She told you to come here. When an adult tells you to do something, you do it."

"Yes, ma'am," I whispered, frozen in place.

The teacher grabbed my wrist and dragged me forward. The herpetologist lady clutched my hand and forcibly applied it in a petting motion to the snake. If my teacher had not still been behind me, with my wrist in her hand, I think I would have collapsed.

"See!" the herpetologist said triumphantly,"It's Just Fine isn't it! You and snake are best friends now, right!" She belly-laughed with pleasure in herself. I can imagine her at home, later, notching her bedpost in honor of another convert, me.

"Yes, ma'am," I whispered, then yanked my hand back as soon their grips slacked. I huddled by the door and practically ran back to the bus. I was silent the entire way home.

I never told my parents this story, either. But they did notice my severe phobia of snakes.

It's caused me some embarrassment at times, and is widely known and jested about in my family. In fact, when trading old "Remember that time when..." stories that make one person groan and turn red and everyone else laughs and laughs, it's not unusual for someone to mention, "Hey, remember that time Julie thought she saw a snake when we were on the family hike in Oregon? She jumped forty-five feet in the air and landed SMACK on OSB's head." Amid laughter---which I join in---OSB reminds people he can never shave his head, probably has scars to this day from my nails clawing him in my frantic haste to get up and stay up. We laughed about it the day it happened, and have ever since. I accept the humor in it.

And my friend gets a good eye-roll out of me too. As with the herpetologist from my childhood, she is impatient with my fear, lacks understanding of it. She is insistent that she can make me like reptiles.

On the day she came to remove the snake from my front stoop, she paused to give me a snake lesson.

She held up his head and forced his face towards me, "Look at his eyes! Round! So no worries! He's not poisonous. They way to tell if you need to worry is to look in the eyes, check the iris and pupils. If they are cat-like, the snake is poisonous. If they are round, they are not. You can't tell by the markings, because some snakes mimic the markings of poisionous snakes. Evolution! Smart!"

I smiled and shook my head, "You aren't serious. You really expect me to get close enough to look in the eyes? HA! If they aren't round then too bad for me, right? You know what? No risk, no pain! I'll stick to calling you."

She shrugged, laughed and left with her new snake specimen.

I can stand to see images of snakes, now. I also am okay with my children handling snakes at special petting zoo events. This is huge progress.

But at my front door, when I hear the scuttling, I still do my funny little dance.

And I wonder, what won't I know that will fundamentally shape my children?

P.S. Don't forget the Hump Day Hmmm on Wednesday (topic: Accident of Birth) (so get your links over, friends). I know there are quite a few of you who I am really hoping participate because I can't wait to read your POV---based on your regular content and comments.

copyright text and images 2007 Julie Pippert

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The big tragedy of the Duke Lacrosse Scandal

I was being cheeky when I said to my husband, "If you happen to be really dysfunctional and want to find a jerk, a frat house is always a good bet; you're sure to find a jerk there. In fact, rich, white, male, and frat boy or athlete in college is a pretty good list of qualifications for upping the jerk potential."

We were talking about the Duke lacrosse-Nifong scandal's latest update.

In reply, he snorted at me in disgust and raised his eyebrows at my audacity with such a blanket statement.

It's a stereotype---bordering on prejudice---and overlooks the fact that if you want to find a jerk (male or female) you can look in almost any socioeconomic class and location and find one, if you try hard enough.

But in my experience, there are certain organized groupings of people that foster really bad choices and behavior with alarming frequency, college athletic groups and fraternities among them.

And no matter how moral you are, it is disturbingly easy to get swept up with it, especially if you are worried that a position, which for some reason feels vital to you, is at risk.

Take my Dreadful to the Nth Power Job.

Our office was practically on MIT's campus, and the overwhelming majority of the staff boasted diplomas of one sort or another from there. In fact, that's how the company got started: some MIT buddies designed and got seed money for a truly innovative software program. We used to joke---based on the number of MIT grads and proximity to campus---that the staff had never really left college. The light-hearted, casual and fun approach was initially enjoyable. How nice to be with fun people! How nice to be a part of a close group!

But I slowly started to notice a few things. Men got offices; women got cubes. It had a real frat house atmosphere with crude jokes and beer in the fridge. The women tended to be segregated into one area, on one team, while the men (the majority) held domain over the rest of the office. Most of the men were nice, a pleasure to work with. But the Big Boss? Not so much.

When he turned 30, some of the guys thought it was GREAT! idea to hire a stripper. We women huddled in our cube cluster and whispered about it. I think each one of us knew that if we squawked, we'd be even more marginalized. I think it says a lot that we all spent every second working hard to rationalize why this did not need to be a big deal. I think it says a lot about our fear level.

My husband was appalled when he heard, and even more appalled when he found out I wasn't screaming. This did not jibe with his image of me. The more he poked and pushed, the more I rationalized. He finally gave up in disgust.

In the end, it was one of the guys who squawked. A nice lower level engineer, who was relegated to the cube farm with us. He put his foot down and said no, this was not cool. The senior management appealed to the women, asked us to let him know we were okay with it...put a little pressure on him to lighten up. When I protested saying he had a right to his opinion, I was told this wasn't a request.

Ultimately the stripper plan prevailed and the protestor stalked out. When I saw the girl arrive, I felt literally nauseated. She looked so unhappy and uncomfortable. I felt compelled to walk over to her, ask if she needed anything, shake her hand...which was like ice. She tried for bravado, but to tell the truth, it was a pretty thin act.

The atmosphere that fell over the office was terrifying. The guys were so pumped up, so excited (in every meaning of the word).

It was easy to be caught up in the "joke" all while feeling sick and disgusted, more than a little disturbed.

After her act---done in the boss's office---she left relatively quickly although most of the guys heavily pressured her to stay for a drink. After she was gone, the truly inappropriate talk began.

It was more than clear how---and what---they thought of her. And that's the moment when I realized that a lot of them really didn't see women as equal humans. That's when I finally realized with sick heart that they objectified women as service objects of one sort or another. That's when I realized how I had also behaved grossly and enabled it. That's when I realized I had long ago begun believing I had no choices here, and thus it was past time to leave. I began job hunting, but was so gunshy, I saw red flags at every interview. My headhunter despaired, all while she understood.

The behavior at that office by the men became so egregious that I ultimately left before I found another job, with a sexual harassment payoff (which didn't come half near enough for my pain and suffering), as did a large number of other women. But I learned a lot, not all of it good.

I learned that groups of people can egg one another along and help one another rationalize horrible behavior, especially labeling it "just in fun." I learned that as the leader goeth, so goeth the followers. I learned that fear can make you agree to things you never would otherwise.

It's not too hard---having witnessed obnoxious, out of control guys salivate over a stripper, laughing excitedly, and pressuring her to "stick around for a while"---to imagine what that stripper at the Duke lacrosse party had to deal with.

I'm glad the injustice of a false criminal accusation of rape was cleared up, but that doesn't make those athletes lily white and innocent in my book. They had a party with underage drinking and strippers. I'm sure the behavior there was way below gentlemanly. At the least. In my opinion, any punishment any of them has received (such as suspension---not the media massacre and false accusations) is fair due for what they did do.

The truth is, they made a heap of poor choices, and hopefully they have realized that. It amazes me that the poor sobbing boy on the stand was only concerned that his mother would learn he'd been charged with rape. Did he cry when he realized he'd have to tell her he'd been drinking, partying and paying a woman to remove her clothes at a party? Did she cry when she realized this? If not, why not?

I sincerely hope it had nothing to do with the idea that "boys will be boys."

Although I have gone along with this thought, probably more often than I like to admit or recall---such as at the office stripper party---this line of thinking is completely unacceptable to me now. This sort of thing should not be passed off, rationalized, overlooked, or tolerated.

That is very likely exactly where the prosecutor, Mike Nifong, and the rape accuser were coming from when they pursued the action they did.

That girl should not have falsely cried rape. She set a poor precedent, and took the rape movement back a few steps.

Mike Nifong should never have done the things he did. I think Reade Seligmann is right when he says Nifong was doing this on purpose, maliciously, to him and his friends.Resignation and disbarrment is a fair turn of events. Nifong's handling of the case was gross misconduct, set a very poor precedent, and took the rape movement back a few steps.

I do not understand the actions of either Nifong or the accuser, but I do understand what impelled them: too many women abused by too many men, too much injustice due to privilege, too often stuck seeing and hearing stories that are bad enough even without a crime attached. One day, there can come a point at which you say, "Enough. We have to send a message; this sort of thing cannot continue. This cannot be tolerated any longer."

Although few of us have the power or authority to do anything about it, some, such as this woman and Nifong, do. I could only collect money and walk away from that job and that career. She could accuse these men of a crime, and Nifong could pursue criminal prosecution. They misused their power, no doubt about it. Still, after things I've seen and experienced, I can understand the impulses that drove them to bypass good choices and make poor ones in pursuit of punishment for people (speaking generally) that these particular lacrosse players represented. Players who, although exonerated of rape, still do not deserve the label "innocent" in my book.

Nevertheless, Nifong and the woman deserve the consequences of this dishonesty. That's truly unfortunate because this case will be in every involved mind the next time a woman---especially a stripper or similar---cries rape, esepcially against nice-looking, clean cut athletes. Criminal investigation and prosecution should proceed carefully and thoroughly, assertively, but not doggedly. I am highly concerned, however, that caution will supercede progression, after this.

And that's the big tragedy of the Duke lacrosse rape scandal.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Roly Poly

Patience is a scientist, no, strike that, a scientist extraordinaire. For example, she collects bugs for observation. However, it doesn't end there. In fact it doesn't even begin there.

Allow me to share the process:

Step 1: Observe interesting bug in back yard.
Step 2: Find Insect Guide and determine type of bug.
Step 3: Discover appropriate habitat for bug.
Step 4: Build bug habitat from personal design.
Step 5: Collect bug using tools from Insect Collection and Storage toolkit.
Step 6: Observe bug daily, multiple times, under varying conditions. Test light, heat, dark, and environmental responses. Take notes.
Step 7: Create chart of life cycle, daily routines, and reactions to tests, a la chinois (which means, begin writing bottom left, move right and up from that point---to appease mom write frontwards translation under backwards words).
Step 8: Cry while releasing bug back into wild. Console self with thought of bug returning to family. Console self further by writing and creating book about bug.

Here are some things I have learned in the last couple of days about Pillbugs (aka roly poly bug), courtesy of Patience:

1. They prefer wet environments.
2. They are a class of wood louse. (OMG ICK! ICK! ICK!!!!! Total louse phobia here. I gag at the thought that one is living upstairs right now. In my house. The house I pay dearly to exterminate.)
3. Any sense of movement provokes instant balling response.
4. They will immediately uncurl when placed under a lamp. Conclusion: like warmth and light.
5. They are not insects. They are isopods and are more closely related to shrimp.
6. They start from eggs.
7. They do not have bones like us. They do have exoskeletons.
8. They can cohabitate with earthworms.
9. Although they seem happy with dirt and leaves, they will gluttonously consume frog pellets.
10. I can participate in this entire process without gagging once. No comment on the sarcasm/irony I can't mask.

Our continual drive to learn and research new things has taught me a lot. In fact, having children teaches me a lot. I might roll over for me, but not ever for them. I will study things carefully and make informed decisions. I might not always do it best, right or as per the PSA du jour on the networks, but it is done with thought.

When Patience was a toddler, before Noggin changed over to the Moose (and...can I vote him off the show? Eeeks, that singing!) they used to have a song they sang at the beginning and end of their broadcast day. Those were usually the times we had tuned in (often just for the song) and we'd happily belt it out every time.

Seeing, smelling, hearing, telling
Something newwwwwww
New for me and for yoooouuuuuu

That's Patience's theme song---it encapsulates her approach and drive in life. The only element missing is touch. She never forgets touch.

She's hitting school age, now, though, and this is where the whole "who I am" morphs into "who I am with other people, who they are, what we all need to be like" thing.

My intrepid explorer, my half pint zoologist/entomologist has recently begin saying, "Ohhh EWWWWW," about bugs, sometimes---usually with or shortly after being with friends, all of whom seem to think, for some reason, that as girls they ought to squeal like stuck pigs when it comes to Gross Things like bugs. At home, sans friends, she says it to me to test my reaction. I play it low key, "Eww? Oh I'm not grossed out. Just a spider. I like them; they eat mosquitos."

But I think about it a lot. I don't want her to get too far away from this science and engineering that she loves so well, that is part of her. If I remind her, though, she rejects it, "Who are YOU to tell ME who I am?" I see the teen years will be fun.

I don't know why girls get this way. One of my top parenting goals was to foster enough esteem that my daughters wouldn't get sucked into the "go along with the friends." I don't want them to hide their light under a bush, secret parts of themselves, pretend to not be who they are while pretending to be someone they aren't. I don't want them to perfect the act so well they forget who they are, and get out of balance. I want them to feel empowered.

It took the teen and early adult years to utterly lose myself, and it's taking nearly as long to recover myself. This blog is a big step. It empowers me by forcing me to deal with myself as me, and deal with how others take me, as myself. I confront all the best and worst of myself right here. It's childhood, elementary, junior high, high school, college, work, community, and life all rolled up into one electronically delivered package.

When I think about it, Patience and I are at similar points of emotional development---the center point of self---but on opposite ends. I am recovering who I am, rediscovering long set aside dreams and interests, and becoming more sure of what I want and need. She---who has so definitively, her entire life, known who she is, what she enjoys, what she wants and needs---is beginning to test this against alternatives, outside reactions, and internal responses. She is moving away from her center point while I move towards mine.

I can see that this process has a degree of inevitability, and as much as right now feels like something that was somewhat detrimental to me, was in fact something essential. So I squelch my urge to fight it in her. I can see it is much more complicated than good esteem---which I have decided is simply the thing you need to make it through and recover afterwards, rather than a vaccination against falling into peer pressure---and solid parental support and guidance. I can understand and see so clearly the phase she is entering. I can sympathize with how difficult it is for her. I find it tough at my age...imagine how difficult at hers. I must step aside and become a little solid foundation, a little soft cushion, and a lot Mom with a dash of Friend, now. We're not quite past hugs and kisses making it all better, or quicksilver mood changes that let it go like it never happened. But almost. So I need to step up and bring my A-game now.

She doesn't blog, but she does journal, mainly with drawings. She depicts her thoughts---things she knows, problems she encounters, ideas that intrigue her, and things that worry or bother her---with detailed graphic illustrations. Her pictures are never just things; they are always long, elaborate stories.

I sit and blog, she sits and draws. Sometimes we do it side-by-side.

It's a good process. Doing it has carried me through many stages in life, and I believe it will do the same for her. Writing for me and drawing for her gives each of us a voice, reminds us of our strengths and abilities, helps us see who we are and who we are in relation to the rest of the world. It empowers.

I think as females we have a lot of challenges in this world, a lot of things that undermine our belief in self as powerful and strong. I think the shifting to and from the centerpoint is a process that is somewhat unique for women. Anything we do---blogging or drawing---balances out that challenge and shift because it provides an amazing platform for raising a voice, and feeling strong about it.

So I'll blog about roly poly bugs, Patience will draw out her scientific observations and we'll both learn a thing or two---about bugs and ourselves.

Note: This post inspired by HBM, the MBT, and a question about how blogging empowers. I may not find it a radical act, but it is an empowering one.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Smell of Popcorn Popping

Note: I added Mary-Lue's entry Hindsight to the Hump Day Hmmm Host Post below.

Happily my friend Roz saved me from becoming the newest incarnation of Dickensian blogging via her Happy Pink Fluffy Meme.

Ahem. Bring out the bunny slippers and bon bons and put up your feet because it's all art and little matter today.

1. Favorite bubble bath book -- A romance novel of course! Excuse me is that women's fiction now? Can I still be a feminist and (a) call it a bodice ripper and (b) read it? If you like to know, I am a big Suzanne Brockmann fan. Like, groupie level. Which is to say nothing of the time I bodyslammed Janet Evanovich in Boston and forced her into a photo with me and Patience. But that was in the Stephanie Plum heyday, so all can be forgiven. If you don't know what I mean by any of this, carry on. If you do, come sit by me and be my love novel buddy...

2. Best get your groove on tune -- Brick House and Dancing By Myself are dead heat co-winners. My husband has learned to let go and let me go if those songs come on. Patient man.

3. Character you always wanted to be [from t.v., film or books] -- Kelly on Charlie's Angels. Perfect hair, fabulous wardrobe, totally awesome job, good friends and paid to kick ass. What's not to want?

4. Best lullaby -- Okay...sung to "Do your ears hang low" my kids always enjoy my made up song:

Does your diaper hang low?
Does it waddle when you walk?
Does it squish between your knees
When you Squatty Squatty Squat?

I know, I won't give up my day job but this always switches the mood---adult or child---to happy and amicable.

5. Most self-indulgent thing you do -- Buy too many books and read them all. Or maybe blog. Hmm. Tough call.

6. T.V. show you're ashamed to admit you watch -- Should I feel shame? Hmm. I'm not too proud of my Law&Order habit. I think I might be ready for an intervention.

7. Teen celebrity crush -- Tears for Fears. I was not picky. Either would do.

8. The piece of jewelry [outside of any wedding or engagement rings] you always wear -- A watch. Which is useless. Because it is set ten minutes fast but I know that and thus am still often five minutes late. Listen, I used to be punctual. Then I married and had kids.

9. Blog or website you're ashamed to admit you visit -- Sitemeter

10. Favorite chick flick -- Clueless. Maybe Legally Blonde. I did enjoy The Holiday too.

11. Favorite daytime t.v. to watch when slugging around the house -- GEEK! GEEK! TLC or Discovery. I'm a sucker for quasi-educational shows.

12. Best song to be sad to -- Rickie Lee Jones' The Horses

13. Food you could never get enough of -- Toss up between apps and dessert

14. One movie star on your *list* -- Adrian Paul had top honors for so long. But I've been noticing some hot new up and let's leave this open, flexible...ooohhhh wait...Wade Robson. Hot. He dances. And his choreography is...ahhh. But...wait, now that I read about his personal life, maybe not so much. I see, upon comparison, that these men (and the others considered) bear a similarity to my husband. Although, to be fair, my husband has never posed like that in his life.

15. Your theme song -- The Honeymoon from Prelude to a Kiss. I have played this for people before and the agreement is 100%. This is my theme song.

And in other happy news...I might be too broke for BlogHer but...

Jenny and Laura are hosting.

I might even be carpooling with one of your favorite bloggers (who I won't link to unless she gives me clearance) (which I ought to have asked for in advance but err let's see, did not get around to it yet) (sorry) who generously offered to drive, which eases my mind greatly as I do my level best to never have to drive in the city here.

I know, Boston allegedly is worse, almost the worst, but seriously, it's bad here. I was never scared in Boston, and the drivers here petrify me...maybe because I suspect they all have loaded weapons that they will use. For a town full of people who are normally so nice, polite and friendly, there are an awful lot of deranged lunatics on the highways. Actually, there are an awful lot of people on the highways all the time period. Deranged or otherwise.

Plus, very few of the roads here are actually on the ground.

I'll stiffen my upper lip, though, and bear it in order to get to the party.

Where I might be a total dud who drops off to sleep mid-sentence because I will be tired what with having been out late Friday night. That's right: date night! We got together with some friends and chartered a lake and bay cruise. They'll toodle us around and then we'll watch the fireworks. Did I mention no kids?

Then Sunday is Father's Day which also happens to be when my sister-in-law is celebrating all three of her kids' birthdays.

Much busy. Much fun.

More Fluff

I was happily surprised at So You Think You Can Dance last night. Wow! This season it's not really clear who are the top ten. I admit to being really partial to the Wade Robson number while my husband is partial to the Mia Michaels one. I thought it was a great show. How about you? Highlights? Lowlights?

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away...the Hump Day Hmm

When I posed the Hump Day Hmm questions, I wanted to make the first ones an either/or for myself. My brain went around and around, and I wrote countless discarded drafts about what I'd lose had I missed the last twenty years versus what I'd lose in the next twenty years.

If I forced myself to address the paradox (paradoxes, really) or admit that each is equally potentially tragic---which I think it is---I'm still left without an answer. So I pushed on.

It finally struck me last night that the twenty years ahead of me aren't mine yet. I have no guarantees of them, what they might hold or even whether I get them. It's like the lottery: you play hoping to win but accept that you might not. I realize we more have a reasonable expectation of having the time, but again, we don't know what it holds.

So if I had to choose, I'd say it's harder to give up what I have had, already know and have experienced, the twenty years behind me. And albeit reluctantly and with grief, I can more easily imagine losing the next twenty years.

I'm sure almost forty would seem as old to my still teen self as almost sixty seems to me now. Both cases lose youth.

I dread the thought of missing my daughters' growing up without me, more for their sake than my own, but yes, selfishly, for me too.

And all the rest.

But the truth is, I haven't got that time; despite reasonable expectation, it isn't mine yet.

So were I to lose it, and then wake from a coma, how would I go about reconciling myself?

I don't have to project a future me, since this me would be the awakening person. I'd be pissed off, bitter. I'd have a twinge every time anyone told me a story about my kids---and the twinge would range from grief to fury in some varying degree. I'd feel horribly guilty for the burden I must have been to my family. I'd be disoriented, a late 30s mind in a late 50s body. Nothing and nobody would be as I left.

And where would they be, who would they be for me and who would I be for them?

I know the unusual thing about that Polish man is that everyone, by which I mean his wife, patiently waited for him to wake up. His wife was still his wife, he was still her husband...and probably still the husband she recalled. That's a pretty good cushion for landing in a case like this. I understand the adjustment, but the frame is still there.

Could I expect to have a spouse waiting?

It seems unreasonable, unfair, unlikely. I don't know how many years a person could wait. It seems like that woman must be unusual.

Persistence would have no memory of me, and Patience's memories would be thin, reedy, more likely wishes than fact. They would know I was mother but would not feel like I was mom.

I'd have to earn back any roles left to me.

I'd have to work hard for peace and forgiveness. I think, were it just a bad luck of the draw, it would be easier to get over than if it had been some negligence or similar. But I know enough to know that forgiveness is an ongoing, evolving thing in cases like this, for me anyway, and that I'd spend the rest of my life forgiving and accepting one aspect or another.

I can only hope that the forgiving and accepting stayed ahead of the grief, anger and bitterness, but I'm honest and experienced enough to know that some days that wouldn't be true.

Not many of you tackled this roundtable (so far) but there is still time. I don't blame you, eschewing it. It's a tough one. Unpleasant, frustrating and at times painful, to tell the truth. Still, for me, the exercise was good. I remembered the value in what I have, and accepted the future is outside my control. I remembered to thrive in today.

So here are the few, the brave, the should-be-proud because they tackled this head-on eloquently:

Chani with Forgiving Serendipity

Gwen with A Touch of the Hamlet

Sober Briquette with At This Moment

Christine wrote Hump Day Hmmm

Mary-LUE wrote Hindsight is 23/43

Let me know if you need to be added to this list (and you? oh yeah you need to be. ;) )

Next week (next Wednesday):

Accident of birth

Yes, that's it. Accident of birth. Tackle this from any angle you like: disabilities, geographic or socioeconomic, resources and privileges (or lack thereof), etc. Make it personal (your own story, someone you know, etc.) or general (a world event, current event, situation). Talk about the justice, injustice, and forgiveness (or lack thereof) in dealing with some sort of ongoing inequality due to an accident of birth. Go big or small.

If you need more guidance, feel free to comment or email me to discuss. :)

And thanks to Chani for the idea.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert