Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Woooooooo it's the Halloween Hump Day Hmm!! 10-31-07

I'm going to be late to my own party. Yep, that's right, I will post my own Hump Day Hmm post LATE! (See? It really is a loose deadline folks LOL!)

Here's why:

1. I have to work 3 Halloween events today. I'll probably manage no more than 2 of those, disappointing everyone else. This is on top of my regular obligations for the day, such as my work.

2. My husband is AWOL again. I think he's somewhere near the Louisiana border surveying a site. So I'm solo parenting.

3. The really great pictures and stories will happen later today and tonight.

4. Blogger won't let me upload photos I can't even show you the pumpkins my husband so beautifully carved!

However! In the meantime, there are a lot of cool Halloween stories floating about today...just email me at j pippert at g mail dot com if you want to be included in the list. And be patient. I might be at a carnival or a festival or a party. But I'll get to you.

(And seriously! The list below? I have more than 34 Halloween posts in my Google reader so whassup people! You have a post about Halloween...let's co-op link!)

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

Christine at running on empty wrote 10 reasons why Halloween is the best holiday EVER

Get chills with Lawyer Mama's The Ghost In My House

Can you guess Tere's Halloween costume?

Rocky Cat's Happy Halloween will give you the shivers.

Collecting Raindrops Emily shares Costumed Requital

Kyla's wordless but pictures are worth a thousand words in her Wordless Wednesday: Eyeless Spongebob

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tie a red ribbon 'round my daughter's wrist...and tell her the discomfort is there to remind her drugs are bad

On Saturday, as we drove to Patience's soccer game I noticed the two schools we passed on the way to the fields were decorated merrily in red ribbons. I might not even have noticed, had it not been for my two sharp-eyed lookouts, who catch everything and catalog it for me. Over. And over.

"Look Mama," Persistence cried happily, "Wed wibbons! All ovah!"

"Wow, so there are, red ribbons, how pretty," I answered absently, scouting for a parking spot.

"Wed wibbons!" she squealed.

"Umm hmm," I replied, guiding the car into a spot.

"Wed wed wed wed wibbons!!"

And so on.

On Monday, instead of our usual power walk to school---aka the 'we left too late to saunter and oh well it burns more calories woo hoo!' walk---we were running so late that I had to drive. This annoys me. I feel ridiculous. The weather is great for a walk, everyone benefits, and we live close to the school. And yet, here we were, driving, in order to not be late.

As we approached the school, six eyes observed the same thing: red ribbons covering our school, and every other conceivable surface.

"Well well well," I muttered, sensing a theme and immediately employing my "on guard" attitude.

"Hey look Mom!" Patience cried, "Red ribbons, just like at Maggie's school and the big kid school!"

"Wed wibbons, wed wibbons! More wed wibbons!" Persistence chanted.

"What are they for?" Patience asked, "I know! For Halloween!"

"Hmm," I said, carefully, "I don't think so. It's usually orange for Halloween," I added, "Red is more for Christmas. But they couldn't promote or celebrate that anyway. So I don't know. This must be some sort of..." I bit back "out of line dumb-assed political statement."

"Some sort of what, Mom?" Patience asked.

"Some sort of special event I wasn't notified about," I said, not a little sullenly.

I dropped off Patience, and returned home where I unloaded the dishwasher-vacuumed the kitchen floor-exercised-showered-dressed-got myself ready and got Persistence ready (again)...all in slightly less than an hour. I too cheerily dumped her as fast as possible in her classroom and hustled to the grocery store, where I got our weekly allotment (in budget) and all of the makings for goodies for the Halloween party our cul-de-sac is hosting (well over budget). Rush and do, rush and do and before I knew it, time to pick up Little P, run by bank, get her to sleep (in car, of course, necessitating another car ride to school) and pick up Patience.

Patience's old gymnastics coach, now a teacher at the school, helped her in to her booster seat. We waved goodbye, and I turned to briefly greet my daughter. She smiled back and connected her seatbelt. I eased off the brake and we headed away from the school.

As usual, I used our car moment to interrogate Patience about her day, "So sweetie," I trilled, "Tell me your best and worst."

"No worst, well D went to a haunted house and got chased by guys with guns and knives and he had to run so fast! It sounded horr-i-ble, they had guns! Knives! I did not know they could chase little kids with guns! and Knives! in Haunted Houses. I think I might have to be eleven before I go! And he's seven and his mother lets him walk all by himself to restaurants and he gets cookies and sodas! He walks by himself to school too!" She stopped abruptly.

I am momentarily stunned by the sudden and immediate silence.

"Umm," I said trying to gauge whether a response is called for, and if so, how to do so without questioning the friend's veracity or mother's sanity, "So how would you feel about walking by yourself to a restaurant or school?"

"I could do it!" she cried.

"I believe in you, yes," I said carefully, "But umm would you feel safe? Or scared? Would you rather be alone or with Mom and Dad."

She remained silent for a minute, "I'd be okay by myself. But maybe you better keep walking me for now, so I don't get lost or stolen."

I exhaled my relief. She wants to be that independent but recognizes she isn't quite there yet.

"Okay so what was best?"

"We can bring a stuffed animal to school tomorrow. I think I'll take my unicorn, the one with the flower wreath! Oh and even better than that? T is my very, very best friend! I mean, all my friends are good, best friends but T is my very, very best one. The bestest."

"She seems like a really sweet girl," I said, "I'm glad you made some nice friends. So what did you learn at school today."

She got quiet.



I waited.

"Nothing? Well what seat work did you do?"

"Just stupid letters, Mom. No big deal," she said, irritation creeping into her tone, and a definite sound of a door slamming, especially when she said, "It was fine. I knew the words."

Great," I said, really, really missing her regular kindergarten teacher. Patience used to come home so enthused about things she was learning. Since her teacher has been on maternity leave, she has shown little interest in her lessons or in advancing to the next level. Is it the substitute? The substitute she is tight-mouthed about, saying only, "Fine," in reply to any questions about her? Or is she just past the honeymoon period of starting school? A little of both?

I'm getting a little worried because I don't think this teacher explains the lessons very well. She certainly is out of communication with me, the parent. But the assignments Patience brings home shows a slight lack of comprehension of what she should have done...and this teacher makes no helpful marks of suggestion or correction.

Not to mention, I'm hearing less and less about healthy snacks and assignments and more and more about candy and television shows and movies..yes, in the classroom, yes, regularly. Also, I'm seeing more and more agitation as soon as we get home, incomprehensible meltdowns and tantrums from an overstressed child. A child who hasn't been overstressed by school until very recently. The regular teacher was in good contact. I haven't had a word or note since she went on leave.

I pulled into our driveway. Persistence was still completely sound asleep. I gathered her backpack, my purse, her sneakers, my book (something to read in the car while waiting in the car rider line---not idling for the record), and finally, the heavy sleeping child. Patience suddenly turned churlish and whiny, "Moooooomm, this is huurting me! Take it off!"

Persistence stirred on my shoulder. "Shhhhhh!" I hissed, "I'll take care of whatever it is when we get inside."

This is unacceptable to Patience, who let loose a wail of frustration. In a case such as this, she wants my attention and care now, not after I take care of her sister and set things down and close doors and then turn to her needs. I hear the cry for nurturing attention for what it is, and recognize she chose a time that was bound to fail. She knows the going-inside routine. None of this knowledge helps.

Keeping my tone as even and low as possible, I said, "Patience, when. we. get. inside. I will gladly take care of you. But not until then."

I marched in, climbed the stairs, settled Persistence into her bed, and returned downstairs. Patience was sulking outside under the tree, on top of the flowering plants she trampled and killed two weeks ago.

"Hi honey," I said nonchalantly, ignoring the sulk, "Come on in, let's have a look at what the problem is."

"It's this bracelet! It hurts my arm," she said fiercely, running to me in relief, grateful to have a Way Out of the sulk without losing face. "But I'm not allowed to take it off all week! But it hurts! But if I take it off I'll be in trouble." Her lower lip quivered. She tucked it into her mouth to hide that weakness.

I lightly held her arm and squinted at the red bracelet tightly encircling her wrist. It's like a club bracelet, or a hospital ID bracelet: tough, red plastic, snapped and locked on. There are tiny black words on it. I squinted harder.

Ahhh. The red ribbons. The red bracelet. It's an anti-drug message.

I rolled back onto my heels boggled by the fury that flooded me, flushing my face.

"Mommy?" Patience inquired.

"It's the kind that locks on," I said, "Locks on! I can't figure out how to pop it and it's on so tight we can't get it over your hand." My anger is upsetting her again.

"It huuuurts," she cried, escalating agitation to near panic, "Get it off!"

Magic words.

"Wait here," I told Patience, and I strode to the office to get scissors. She looked calmed by my resolve.

As I moved away from her, I swallowed rapidly. My heart was racing. I was furious. I am furious. I wanted to strip off that tag the school locked onto my daughter without my permission. I wanted this bracelet---this crap bracelet, this ridiculous symbol representing the wasted effort in the war on drugs, and all that bothers me about this country right now---off my baby's arm.

I'll handle the drug issue. I'll handle the sex issue. I'll handle the morality of my child and family. How dare they. Not even a blasted note, nothing. No heads-up. Nothing to let me know this is coming, to let me prepare so I can handle what will inevitably come home with my child: fears, confusion, concerns, worries. Nothing to ask me, or tell me.

Just my child, arm hurting from a tight red bracelet locked on her arm with anti-drug messages, locked on for one full week without my permission, with threats to not take it off because she must wear it all week (and she heard an "or else you'll get in trouble" loud and clear whether it was said, or not, which tells me something about the atmosphere there). She must keep this bracelet on for the full Red Ribbon week to remember that Drugs Are Bad. She is supposed to endure a week of discomfort to remind her of this anti-drug message. My child, my scared child who doesn't want to get in trouble doesn't understand what drugs are or what this bracelet has to do with them or why she has to wear somethign that hurts her so that she'll remember the lesson they demand she learn.

And the horrible thing for me is that it's not so much the message---I plan to take a hard stance about illegal substances, as complicated an issue as this is for me---but that they are telling it to a sensitive and impressionable five year old, using these scare tactics, without even letting me know. It's not even the first time, just the most recent, and so far the worst.

So there we stood, her in the kitchen, me in the office trying to get a handle on my temper: the two of us in this bind of not being able to sneakily remove this infuriating pain-inducing bracelet but Patience hardly able to bear the feel of it on her wrist, her hyper-sensitive wrist, which is already red and chafed.

My hands shook in anger as I opened the box the scissors are hidden in. They were still shaking when I returned to Patience. She saw the scissors and shrieked, then cried out, "NO! NO SCISSORS! No cutting! If I take it off I get into trouble, I have to leave it on all reminds me drugs are bad, Mommy, I have to remember!"

My fury moved down my arms into my lungs as I draw in a shaky burning breath. I drew in another, and another, until I felt calm enough to say, without upsetting Patience further, "I won't cut it off unless you want me to. But there are only two choices: leave it on or cut it off."

Patience hesitated. She wanted that bracelet off, but she wanted to Not Get Into Trouble more. I watched as her decision crossed over her face. "Leave it on I guess," she mumbled.

I drew in three more shaky breaths. She sensed my agitation and was confused by it, worried it was about her.

I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and said as lightly as I could, "Hey it's up to you and I'm fine either way. What do you say we look at your schoolwork, hmm? See what you are learning this week?"

"Okay," she said, suddenly switching from dark to light as quickly as only a child can, "And I'll get my unicorn for tomorrow. I can draw a picture of the unicorn!"

I smiled tightly and nodded. She skipped off.

In the end, I see that it is not my child I am worried about fitting into the public school. It is me, and the person I want my child to emerge from school and be.


Slight update: Patience told me this morning that the bracelet still bothered her, but she said uncomfortable rather than hurting. I think it's just loose enough to still move on her arm but just tight enough to chafe. She said it woke her several times last night. Patience is one of those texture sensitive kids. I had to cut out all her tags (or buy Carters, which is tagless) and flip her socks inside out. I know this is high-maintenance, and can't expect the school to know or accomodate every kids' every quirk---and I don't. But. Still.

I decided to send a note to the school (to the teacher) after much discussion with my husband, who is also upset but concerned about how the school will respond and react, especially to our daughter, especially after the great Truant Incident (aka us taking her out of school for our trip, which prompted some stern commentary to us, and sadly, also to Patience, about, and I do quote, being absent without an excuse). I am a little worried about the note and its reception. I was unable to be conciliatory or ask questions, but I was able to (I hope) not be critical or rude, and simply come across as a parent who was surprised and taken off guard by a pretty significant school program but who wants to work constructively with the school. It was a full page long. But it was also as brief as I could make it and get all the salient information included. So...fingers crossed.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Afternoon Celeb Gossip on the 10s! She's been a bad, bad blogger

Who's that alleged health nut stalking out of McDonalds this morning? Could it be the Good Girl of Blogging being Oh-So-Bad?

Indeed it is. Independent sources confirm that celeb-wannabe blogger Julie Pippert of Using My Words was seen clutching a non-diet soda and a bag containing not one but two Bacon, Egg and Cheese McGriddles plus hash browns!

Todd Talmadge, morning shift manager at the Space City McDonalds, confirmed that the blogger formerly known as the Ravin' Picture Maven purchased two McGriddles and a full calorie Coca-Cola.

"She always asks for Pepsi products like we're some sort of low class joint, KFC or something. Sometimes she gets the Deluxe breakfast---that's the hotcakes, sausage, egg and hash brown---but usually she gets the McGriddles. She always wants extra ketchup. I think she puts some on her eggs," Talmadge said, grimacing in disgust.

Blogger Pippert smiled for the cameras as she exited the local fast food restaurant. When asked about the food, she tried to claim it was for a friend, but refused to name this alleged "friend."

She was wearing low rise skinny jeans and a tiny white tank. How long until that McGriddle-Muffin top hangs over her braided belt? And Julie, call Stacy and Clinton about that hair. We're pretty sure lime green bandannas went out of style with The Bangles. (For those of you under 80, The Bangles were an all-girl power-pop group headed up by Susanna Hoffs. Popular in the early and mid-80s, they capitalized on the success of The Go-Gos.)

You heard it here first, at Afternoon Celeb Gossip on the 10s!

This is part of the Monday Mission: Enquiring Minds...

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

On planning (and other freak moments of organization)

I hope everyone had a happy weekend.

I have a little bloggy business so I'll get right to it; this way we get back to the fun that is this week sooner!

1. Blogging Pledge Class of October 2007

If you are a new blogger, undiscovered blogger, blogger who wants to reach a broader audience, or if you know a blogger like this...send me the deets! I have a great list going already and will post that later this week (to give everyone who wants to time to join in). To get listed simply email me at j pippert at g mail dot com or comment here with a brief synopsis of your blog and a link to your blog.

2. Hump Day Hmm for Halloween

10-31: What other topic can I possibly ask everyone to talk about except something Halloweenish on this date? :) Tell us a scary story, a fun story, an experience, a tradition, anything you'd like to that has to do with the event most people celebrate on 10-31. If it means more than a night of silliness and trick or treating to you, tell us about that. If you don't celebrate Halloween, feel free to talk about that! I enjoy hearing all angles. If you want to tell a scary story, or some supernatural experience (that may or may not have happened on Halloween), go for it.

Check here for more upcoming topics.

3. Big Thanks

A huge thanks to Kellan of On the upside for the sweet award she gave me!

Kellan explained that
This award is, "Presented to awesome blog owners who keep their readers excited about their posts. Their blog posts are interesting and worth reading and keep their readers looking forward to each and every post."

I will have to think hard about who to pass this to, but I wanted to get a big thanks out to Kellan!

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Outside, it is the upper 70s, maybe even the 80s. Who can tell, who cares, when it is perfect like this?

Outside the leaves and lawns are still green; incongruous with the fall and Halloween decorations.

Outside, the children have gathered in the cul-de-sac. They've brought toy cars and scooters, a few bikes. Even the adults, their own toys in hand---basketballs, RC helicopters---have come. Who can resist a day like today?

Outside, on a day like today, we are all children.

Outside, the sun shines, the wind blows gently, stirring the leaves and the small plastic jack-o-lanterns suspended from tree branches with grosgrain ribbon, orange and white striped.

Outside children shout ideas, games, and laughter. They approach one another tentatively, at first, used to one another only within the confines of scripted playgroups and playdates. Within a short fall perfect moment, they relax and find easy comfort playing with one another, alongside one another. The smallest girls are quickly riding in the back of the battery powered Jeep of the smallest boy. The moms and dads laugh to see such a sight.

Outside a dog chases a ball, thrown by a tween fan who cared for him while his family traveled.

Outside. We are all outside. Outside after being inside for months; even the dog is shaking with the restrained exuberance of freedom and enjoyment.

Outside is inside, as we all throw open our windows and remove boundaries from indoors and outdoors, from one another.

Outside is a perfect moment that will be forever frozen in our hearts as amazing. A moment we spend our lifetimes trying to recapture.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The sound of one heart breaking

It must be said that my girls are no longer babies. They are getting big, developing their own lives. Cases in point...

Boston, October 2007, Museum of Science

A child pointed to Persistence and said, "Baby!" Said child appeared about Persistence's age, and was at the time being carried by his mother. Persistence, on the other independent hand, was walking about of her own volition (her usual state). Persistence shrieked in fury and yelled back to the child, "I NOT BABY! YOU BABY!" and ran off, mortally offended. She could be heard muttering for the next hour, "I not baby!" And was quite pissy about it all.

Coastal Texas, October 2007, Elementary School

Patience begged me to come lunch with her at school on Thursday, so Persistence and I went. I had grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk in buckets. A big deal. This is Fine Kid Dining. She was waiting for me and happily leapt up to join me at the guest lunch table, a big table in the center of the cafeteria, set up for visiting parents. She was happy, initially, but then turned sulky. Sulky means sassy (which means rude and hurtful). Each attempt I made to reach and connect with her failed (which means rebuffed with sass).

I casually mentioned to Patience that I thought her lunch was ending in the next minute or so, and she asked how I knew. I told her because of the time but also because the lunch lady was at the end of her class's table with the trash can. She turned to look and her current special little friend waved. The teacher had the kids stand and queue up. Without a wave, a word, or a backward glance, Patience ran to join her class, and stood in a tight cluster with her two little best friends.

Persistence and I stood back by the guest table, utterly forgotten. In that moment, with a terrible twist of my heart, I knew Patience's life focus had moved beyond the family bubble. I felt, for the first time, what other mothers must feel when they lead their child to the bus or the kindergarten classroom for the first time: a sense of loss, a feeling of left-behindedness.

On the way back to the car, I clutched Persistence's hand a little too tightly. "No hold hands, Mommy, I big girl. I walk beside you. See?" she told me, yanking her hand back.

When I got to the car, I sat in the car for a moment. I felt urgent, so I used my emergency car phone to call my husband. He listened sympathetically as I said, near tears, "And she was so disdainful, like she was embarrassed of me. She's never acted that way before! Then she ran off to her friends like she couldn't get away fast enough, and didn't even say goodbye!" He said, "I'm sorry hon."

I hung up and tried to feel happy that Patience was happy, that she felt flush with the sense of social success.

I knew by tomorrow I would be, but right then I let myself grieve, just a bit.

Coastal Texas, October 2007, Pack-n-Ship Store

"Mommy," Persistence cried, persistently as I negotiated ground versus second day for a package I was shipping, "Mommy," she said again.

"Just a minute," I told the counter guy, turning to Persistence, "What is it honey?"

"See dis card!" she said, handing me a greeting card with a dog holding flowers on the front. I glanced at it, then handed it back, "That's cute sweetie." I started to turn back to the counter guy.

"Mommy!" she said urgently, "What say inside card?"

I flipped the card open, "It says..." my breath caught in my throat. I cleared my throat with an umm hmm, "It says 'I ruv you.'"

"Dood!" she cried, "Dat's the card I want to dive my daddy!"

I pulled out the money and gave it to her to pay the counter guy. How could I not?

In the car, I continued to glow with the sweetness of her act, and thought of how happily surprised my husband would be to get this card when he got home. These days, it's a crap shoot if he comes home to children who love or hate him. To come home to this gesture? I thought he might get a bit wet in the eyes.

Then it hit me, oh wow. The daughter-daddy dynamic and its progression through life really, really hit me. Today, the most important man in Persistence's world is dad. Twenty years from now? Someone else, most likely. I'll always have my mom role but my husband, his priority spot will change. Inside my chest, my heart burned and melted. Again.

Our children? Are growing. And this week? We feel it keenly.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Thursday, October 25, 2007


** Hey please come vote for this at SK*RT to get the word out! **

You know what? There are new bloggers out there. I know! NEWBIES.

What's more...there are undiscovered bloggers, untapped wells of talent.

But we don't know about you.

I know, some people are shy, not really joiner types, don't prefer blog blasts or carnivals and so forth.

So tell you what: I'll try to create a link list with some regularity. All you have to do is comment and let me know how to find you (aka paste in your link). Write a brief description of your blog, you know a couple of sentences a la "Hi I'm a mommyblogger from Detroit and I have two preschoolers who are very loud and creative, all funny stories on my blog!" or "I'm so deep I make Julie look shallow. If you wish you could have hung with Plato, come by my blog." or "I'm a guy who likes to talk about motorcycles." or "My blog is all about space exploration."

And I'll link you. I'll even do my level best to come and comment at your blog.

So if you have a site to promote, send me your deets and I'll do what I can.

**NO FOR PROFIT/SALES, FEE-BASED, SOLICITATION or SPAMMER type sites though. Sorry dudes. That's a business and marketing costs. This is for personal blogs.**

That's all. No fee, no strings.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

The Factizer aka Trying to ferret out the truth in kids' words

The mahvelous Queen of the Mayhem asked a great parenting question today. Answering it in comments took too much real estate so I decided to post. This one's in honor of you, Queenie!

Here's what she wrote:
Do you believe everything your kids tell you?

During my Open House speech with my parents.....I always end on a humorous note....I tell them that " I will promise not to believe everything they say happens at home, if you promise not to believe everything that happens at school!" We all get a good chuckle....but my point is made.

. . .

Being the mother of an incredibly over-sensitive child, I can appreciate this The Princess takes every statement that is not a glowing remark of her greatness to be a slap in the face......but here's the difference....when she tells me crazy things like this....I remind her that, just because someone isn't thrilled with something you do that is inappropriate...doesn't mean they don't like just means what you did was not acceptable!

. . .

Don't misunderstand....I am all about involved and concerned parents.......I am a parent...I understand that. But, before I take action based solely on the word of my child, I will be doing some investigations of my own! (Just call me the interrogator! ) :)

I make that same deal with teachers, grandparents, other responsible adults who might be privy to or subject of commentary by my adorable, precious yet somewhat prone to dramatizing daughters.

Like the Queen's daughter, my girls are walking vulnerable hearts on sleeves dramatic sorts who feel every little comment as a sharp stab.

"It's not okay to slap your sister, you stop that, now, here's what we need to do instead..." I can say quite calmly to Patience, only to have her collapse in tears.

"But mom she [insert perceived injustice here with no apparent idea of her own responsibility]...sob sob sob..."

"Patience, I understand sweetie, she [insert perceived injustice here] and that makes you [mad/is unfair/sad/insert word]. But slapping is never an okay way to handle it. We need to Use Our Words and if that doesn't work, we need a Plan B that is nice. I'm always glad to help you think of a Plan B."

Patience says, "Waaaaaahhhhhh I'm a terrible child and you hate me....waaaahhhhhh."


The thing is, as frustrating as it can be sometimes, I nevertheless understand that when it comes to my kids, they tend to relay events emotionally, as in "here's how it felt," which is usually a skewed version of the truth.

This is especially true of Patience, my drama queen. Not as much true so far about Persistence, who is more likely to be fairly sneaky and quiet about naughtiness, and, if caught, deny deny deny, then, if trouble ensues, shoot back better than she gets. Her fierce face is a work of art, master level.

But Patience. Oh how she longs to be Marvelous and Adored by everyone all the time, regardless of how she acts. She's a Nice child you know and doesn't mean Bad so it should all be Good.

She's the child who frequently says, "Mooooooomm, my teacher hates me."


Let's put that statement through the Factizer (yes, my friends, I have been known to say this aloud).

(imagine whirring noises and so forth)

Okay here's what came out of the Factizer: I was naughty and talking during clean up time and my teacher gave me a yellow caution and a verbal warning. I felt really bad and embarrassed to be called out, and for not doing what I should. I felt horrible for disappointing my teacher, worried about being in trouble and all I can think of to say to explain all of this is she hates me.

I love my Factizer.


Unfortunately sometimes it spits back "Inadequate Date for Translation" message and I have to investigate.

I make a point to know the teacher and be on good terms for that.

One of the K teachers at Patience's school and I are friends. We were chatting one fun Friday evening and I gave her the biggest laugh she'd had all day, I think.

"So, teacher Friend," said I, "Is there by any chance a student in kindie named Solange?"

"Why do you ask?" said she.

"Err well hummm it's like this. Patience keeps coming home with tales of a Solange who has an awful lot of trouble in school. She's got a lot of feelings---not very good ones by the way---about being in kindie."

"And you're worried because?"

"Okay well because either there is really a child named Solange having a very tough time or Patience is using the old 'imaginary friend' or 'my friend has trouble but it's not me oh no it's not me' tactic because it's sometimes easier to speak in the third person."

"Well," she said hesitantly, "There is a child named Solange, and she is having a rough time, but I can't say more than that."

"No need to!" I said happily, now realizing the Tragedies of Solange were another parent's problem, not mine. I mean, I feel for that parent, but we all have our own crosses to bear, eh. Don't need to carry each others in a case like this.

So tell do your kids communicate? How do you figure out what's going on with them, in their lives? How do you measure it against so-called facts?

I'm eager to hear about all ages and stages (believe me!).

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
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Next Hump Day Hmm topics for 10-31, 11-7, and 11-14

It just so happens that the next two Wednesdays already have stuff going on so I'm going to try to dovetail with that and delay my planned next topic until 11-14, when it's probably not as timely but eh, if it seems really off then we can change. Anyway, no rule saying you can't write about it now and then I'll link it up then. :)

10-31: What other topic can I possibly ask everyone to talk about except something Halloweenish on this date? :) Tell us a scary story, a fun story, an experience, a tradition, anything you'd like to that has to do with the event most people celebrate on 10-31. If it means more than a night of silliness and trick or treating to you, tell us about that. If you don't celebrate Halloween, feel free to talk about that! I enjoy hearing all angles. If you want to tell a scary story, or some supernatural experience (that may or may not have happened on Halloween), go for it.

11-7: This is Blog Blast for Peace Day. I try to keep up with all the various blog blasts going on and have failed abysmally lately. I admit it: a little small here LOL. However. For this one I got a notice, and let me tell you, a notice ups the odds from something like 25% chance I'll know about it to about a 90% chance I'll know about it, remember it, and participate. LOL. This is sponsored by Mimi Lenox of Mimi Writes. Go here to learn more about the Blog Blast for Peace.

11-14: A ha! Finally a space (I think? Anything else planned on this date?). I am so distressed for the people of California who've been affected by this fire. 1600 of them so far have lost their homes, lost everything. It's made me think about loss, what we value, and potential gain. Let's write about that. Imagine losing all your material possessions (except the few you can carry)... Or, tell us a story about some sort of loss. If you can inspire through hope, and tell us about something you gained from it, and real value, please definitely do that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hump Day Hmm for 10-24-07: Imagine what could be next, if only...

Last week I announced today's Hump Day Hmm topic as:

"Where I'd like to go next." This can be your personal goal, professional goal, cultural or societal goal, political get the picture. Just tell us something about how you'd like the future to be. Link back to me in your post, send me the link to your post at j pippert at g mail dot com and I'll add you in to the list!

I had three or four other post ideas in mind in answer to that question, which strikes at so many things for me. But, in light of Monday's news, my words are sort of jumbled, unprocessed...a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom mess after falling down from the coconut tree.

Two things are clear in my head, though.

Clear Thing One: Silent Spring

One commenter asked if I'd read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. I have. A little known fact about me is that I aspire(d) to be an anthropologist. I figured this out a little too late, without enough confidence, after I stumbled into what would have been my double major (had my college allowed such a thing...because I ended up taking to many hours): cultural geography. So I've read and re-read Silent Spring. I've read the controversy about it, studied Ms. Carson's life, and read counterarguments (which I didn't quite buy). I even read the follow-up, Beyond Silent Spring (which was pretty new back when I read it in college). I've also studied the Gaia Hypothesis. And I think it might really have been there that I became so very concerned about the environment.

(Each link goes to a different site with information. If you are interested, I encourage you to click and open new tabs to read more.)

Here are a few salient quotes from Silent Spring, published in 1962 (emphasis mine):

There is still very limited awareness of the nature of the threat. This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits. It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, “The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.”

Chapter 2, The Obligation to Endure

If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.

Chapter 2, The Obligation to Endure

Notable quotes from recent ATSDR literature about PAHs:
PAH contents of plants and animals may be much higher than PAH contents of soil or water in which they live.

Clear Thing Two: Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)

There is a song I haven't been able to get out of my head. It's a song that has always hit me emotionally, much as John Lennon's Imagine does. It's Marvin Gaye's Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology).

Ah, mercy, mercy me,
Ah, things ain't what they used to be, no, no.
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south andeast.

Mercy, mercy me,
Ah, things ain't what they used to be, no, no.
Oil wasted on the ocean and upon
our seas fish full of mercury,

Oh, mercy, mercy me.
Ah, things ain't what they used to be, no, no, no.
Radiation underground and in the sky;
animals and birds who live near by are dying.

Oh, mercy, mercy me.
Ah, things ain't what they used to be.
What about this over crowded land?
How much more abuse from man can she stand?

It seems too clear that we value the short-term of profit over the long-term of a human life. This makes me ineffably sad.

So my hope for tomorrow?

That we abandon the greed foundation of our culture and goals and prefer human health and life to the almighty dollar. That the government becomes so alarmed by industry that poisons and kills that there is a zero tolerance for that. We seem to have no problem with the concept of zero tolerance in other areas, so why not this one? Arguments about dependent income and so forth is ridiculous, especially in the face of human life. Take the Superfund money and help the communities financially and build new, safe industries for them to have dependence on for income.

We're sick. We are all sick, maybe some not as much as others, but sick has become the new normal.

We are sick because public protest is not as important as profit margins.

We are sick because our government---which has zero tolerance for terrorism---has incredible tolerance for eco and human health terrorism.

We are sick because companies lie about risks and effects. Because they take risks with our health and that of the environment by trying to save a few pennies and illegally dump toxic wastes.

We are sick because, sadly, CEOs of toxic companies are not considered murderers and jailed.

We are sick because we have not forced ourselves and our nation to Make This End.

45 years ago a brilliant woman told us we were poisoning ourselves and our land, the animals who share the planet with us.

Since then, there has been much art about the issue, but little matter.

Do you want to know how big an epidemic our dirty little world creates?

You won't be surprised to learn I couldn't find any information about the United States, but I'll tell you a cold, hard number and let you extrapolate:

About 460,000 Chinese die prematurely each year from breathing dirty air and drinking polluted water, the World Bank estimates.

Source: Reuters, Sept. 13, 2007

Take a breath.

Did you pause before doing so? Now that you know how dirty and harmful it might be?

Now you know how much you care.

And what else do others care about...what are other goals for tomorrow?

Painted Maypole wrote Free to be...ME

Emily wrote I’m not sure where I’m willing to go next

Garden of nna mmoy wrote Prophecies and Foreshadowing

Within the woods wrote Where do we go from here?

Lyrical Catherine wrote Next Up: Islam

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Monday, October 22, 2007

Take me to Toxic Town*

Today I had another appointment with the endocrinologist to discuss the treatment failure and the next step to keeping me functional. No wait, forget functional; I'd like to be well again. You know, healthy, with energy and a mind. In general, as a rule, rather than as a rare exception.

See, here's the perplexing thing: my body is acting like it has tumors.

But it doesn't.

We tried treating me as if I did have the tumors and that stopped the symptoms but created a new ball of problems. So we stopped treatment.

My main question is why? My next question is how do we fix it?

The doctor visit today was confusing because there really wasn't time to have an actual conversation; it was, instead, a simple exchange of information. He'd been lecturing all morning and was running late, so I felt like I was spinning in a tornado.

However, he proposed a new theory, the first time I've heard a doctor mention this although as I've slugged my way through the syrupy thick bayou that is medical investigation and diagnosis, I've come to my own hypothesis, which interestingly matches this new one.

New hypothesis: I'm being poisoned.

That's what I said: I'm potentially being poisoned by Houston, aka Toxic Town.

Today this endocrinologist paused and said, "Where is it that you live?" I told him and he said, "Ah yes, south, by the bay. Hydrocarbons."

I paused silently for a second waiting for the musical swell to die down, and said, "What?"

He said, "Oh well there are some mutagenic carcinogenic toxins floating around your area."

I was silent. Dumbstruck you could say.

"It could be a problem," he said, hurriedly continuing, "But then again, maybe not. Not everyone down there is sick."

Ummm. Actually. I know a number of people who are, in varying ways. In fact, it was a conversation with a friend of mine last week that solidified my suspicion into a theory. I casually mentioned that my symptoms all began after moving here, and I wondered whether the environment had a hand in it. I meant the high amount of allergens. My friend took it differently, "Funny you mention that," she said, "I've even contacted the EPA to check on pollutants and chemicals. The guy I spoke to suggested I move."

(Remember my Language Arts life? Take note of that quote from my friend. That constitutes both foreshadowing and motif.)

I started thinking. I've often worried a bit and complained about the effects of the chemical plants to the north of us, and about the chemicals they spray our neighborhood with (saying they are "safe" bwahahaha, and any risk is worth the benefit, BWAHAHAHAHAHA) to kill mosquitoes and prevent wider spread outbreaks of West Nile virus.

And slowly this thought formed in my head: inexplicable endocrine malfunction with symptoms that would typically indicate a tumor, but no tumor...hmmm...toxic chemicals + sensitive system = endocrine malfunction.


Today I headed to the doctor, driving along a route that has toxic chemical plants on the right and a protected wildlife refuge and wetland on the left (toxic company bribe to locals). Through the trees I saw a huge flame. This isn't rare, but it is unusual. What in the world? I thought.

I recalled driving down a similar street with my friend J, on the way to Galveston (about the same distance as Houston to me, maybe a little closer or faster to get to). We were both perplexed by a large flame we saw in the distance, "Oh," she said as we drove past it, "It's one of those gas valves or something, I'm not sure, but they do that now and again, I don't know why." Later, she was diagnosed with lupus, and is the person who referred me to her endocrinologist. She lives in my neighborhood.


It's probably just one of those flames, like that time, I reassured myself. And as I drove past, I noted the usual chemical company guys in their chemical company trucks wearing their chemical company jumpsuits and hard hats working around the large pipeline from which the huge flame erupted (think: much, much larger than Olympic bowl).

Then I got to the doctor and he mentioned hydrocarbons.

He asked where my husband's office was. I told him, and he said (as if my husband's office site is what matters most? is the only thing that matters? never mind the fact that the kids are deeply integrated and involved in our local community through schools, activities, and so forth, and my entire support network is here), "Okay, good so if it is this you can easily move."

Easily move? Isn't that an oxymoron? (Note appropriate integration of other literary term.)

There are apparently tests to do for this, blood tests, that check to see if the pollutant has bonded to your cells.

Let me say that again so it can send a shiver of horror down your spine, too: carcinogenic, mutagenic pollutants bonded to MY cells in MY body.

We don't know yet, and I feel sick to think this is it, and sick to think they won't find evidence of it. I've been hesitant to be very specific when talking about my problem because I haven't felt like we've been on the mark. Until now. It's like my arrow just found the target. I feel freed up to talk about this now.

I came home and Googled hydrocarbons and endocrine system.

Here's what I found:

An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body's normal functions. This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, thus affecting the functions that these hormones control. Chemicals that are known human endocrine disruptors include diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES), dioxin, PCBs, DDT, and some other pesticides. Many chemicals, particularly pesticides and plasticizers, are suspected endocrine disruptors based on limited animal studies.

Exposure to endocrine disruptors can occur through direct contact with pesticides and other chemicals or through ingestion of contaminated water, food, or air. Chemicals suspected of acting as endocrine disruptors are found in insecticides, herbicides, fumigants and fungicides that are used in agriculture as well as in the home. Industrial workers can be exposed to chemicals such as detergents, resins, and plasticizers with endocrine disrupting properties. Endocrine disruptors enter the air or water as a byproduct of many chemical and manufacturing processes and when plastics and other materials are burned. Further, studies have found that endocrine disruptors can leach out of plastics, including the type of plastic used to make hospital intravenous bags. Many endocrine disruptors are persistent in the environment and accumulate in fat, so the greatest exposures come from eating fatty foods and fish from contaminated water.

Source: NRDC

Did you read all of that? If not, please do. It might make a difference to you.

It made a difference to me because (a) when the wind begins to flow from the north, it brings with it the horrible harsh smell of burning plastics from the company slightly north and east of my town. It's so foul that even though the weather is finally nice (read: cooler and dryer) I often stay indoors with the kids because the air makes my sinuses burn and eyes water, and (b) polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (the hydrocarbons my doctor referred to) are listed as endocrine disruptors.

To learn more about PAHs, read the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (part of the CDC) article about PAHs.

The ATSDR lead me to the EPA, which it said had a list of the 1408 most hazardous sites in the US. I decided to enter my zip code in the handy dandy EPA envirocheck form.

When I read reports from the ATSDR, EPA and NOAA, all contained information about PAHs released into air and water in my area, with one right in my town.

I can be affected simply by breathing and by eating locally grown foods (a Green goal).

Read on:

What happens to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) when they enter the environment?

* PAHs enter the air mostly as releases from volcanoes, forest fires, burning coal, and automobile exhaust.
* PAHs can occur in air attached to dust particles.
* Some PAH particles can readily evaporate into the air from soil or surface waters.
* PAHs can break down by reacting with sunlight and other chemicals in the air, over a period of days to weeks.
* PAHs enter water through discharges from industrial and wastewater treatment plants.
* Most PAHs do not dissolve easily in water. They stick to solid particles and settle to the bottoms of lakes or rivers.
* Microorganisms can break down PAHs in soil or water after a period of weeks to months.
* In soils, PAHs are most likely to stick tightly to particles; certain PAHs move through soil to contaminate underground water.
* PAH contents of plants and animals may be much higher than PAH contents of soil or water in which they live.

How might I be exposed to PAHs?

* Breathing air containing PAHs in the workplace of coking, coal-tar, and asphalt production plants; smokehouses; and municipal trash incineration facilities.
* Breathing air containing PAHs from cigarette smoke, wood smoke, vehicle exhausts, asphalt roads, or agricultural burn smoke.
* Coming in contact with air, water, or soil near hazardous waste sites.
* Eating grilled or charred meats; contaminated cereals, flour, bread, vegetables, fruits, meats; and processed or pickled foods.
* Drinking contaminated water or cow's milk.
* Nursing infants of mothers living near hazardous waste sites may be exposed to PAHs through their mother's milk.

Source: ATSDR

Note that last bullet point. Persistence. My poor, constantly sick, respiratory challenged, allergy-laden Persistence, who is on anti-histamines despite AAP recommendation against it for children 2 years of age and younger. She cleared up her phlegmy asthmatic ways as soon as we left the area. Within one week of being back, her symptoms returned.

Mine did too. I felt so much better in so many ways on our vacation. I got tired still but not the all-consuming, I can't function fatigue. I still took my herbs and vitamins, trying to maintain the careful balance of functional body.

I kept thinking the allergies were a symptom, rather than a cause, of the problems I experience. Further research shows this to be true.

For me, I think it is a matter of predisposition. For some reason, I think I have always been predisposed to a sensitivity to these chemicals.

I have always been very sensitive to smoke, any smoke, but especially cigarette smoke. It makes me rabidly against smoking and a strong advocate for the smoke-free zoning going on. In college I went to smoke-filled clubs frequently. Such prolonged exposure lead to a brief hospitalization stay for me due a serious lung reaction. It cut back my socialization seriously. Ever since, I've done my best to avoid smoky places and am thrilled with the new smoke free rules. However, a month ago, I went to a town that didn't have it and agreed to go to a bar to watch a football game with friends. Even before half time I was wheezing, and it took me hours to stop hacking and grunting and choking like I had some form of emphysema. I knew cigarette smoke bothered me but this was the most extreme reaction I'd had since college.

I've had other lung issues in addition to immune and autoimmune and endocrine system issues since moving here. I contracted a form of pneumonia that took three types of antibiotics and about three months to knock off.

Something about my body type and chemistry potentially renders me susceptible to PAHs. This prolonged exposure to higher levels just might be more than my body can handle.

It seems a reasonable answer.

I can only hope we find the proof and answers.

My area isn't unique for PAH and other problematic hazardous materials. Texas is a leader, but so are Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. Not to mention California (life could be worse for me, I could live in Los Angeles). The 1,408 sites the EPA listed are the National Priority List for sites to clean up due to the major hazards they pose to human health and the environment. The areas involved contain carcinogens.

You know what I'm talking about. You've heard of the Superfund. Go here to see if your area is on the list.

There are eighteen (18!) NPL Superfund sites near me. That's nearly half of the total in Texas (42).

In fact, one violator is within a couple of miles of me. It gets a special spot on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) at the EPA.

Creeped out? Scared? Skeevy?

I am.

This is where I live. Where I am raising my kids.

It might be a problem for you and your area, too.

Why this is opens a big can of worms. It involves our economy, and our system of government. And is another post entirely.

In a few weeks I'll hopefully know one way or another, but to tell the truth, in one small way it doesn't even matter what the blood tests show. In my mind, I am already convinced this environment is a problem.

Note: I know I have barely scratched the surface of this issue, don't half understand of it, and the reports are awfully confusing to decipher. I need an expert. But I can tell a problem is here.

* Note: I sarcastically named this Toxic Town, not realizing that USA Today just printed an article about Port Arthur, naming it Toxic Town. You should read that. It's charming. Lure in money now, never mind we kill off all our residents later. It is so sickeningly indicative of how we think now.

FTR, Port Arthur is the area where the hurricane hit. It's also the area where my husband is building new schools. The high school his firm is working on is the high school that got a huge settlement after a tragically high number of its students became ill from (and died of) terrible cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. My friend's mother was affected.

The comments to this article distress me almost more than anything. "Just move," and "get your handouts elsewhere" make me sick.

P.S. If your area is clean, will you let me know? So far it looks like Idaho and Nevada are possibles for safe locations. We're compiling a list. I prefer seasons, if I must move. And nice people.

Some light bedtime reading for you:

Public Health Statement for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

ToxFAQs™ for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) (from ATSDR-DHS)

Endocrine Disruptors (Wikipedia)

Endocrine Disruptors (NRDC)

Brio Refining
(An NOAA PDF about one of the NPL Superfund sites)

"POTENTIAL PAH RELEASE FROM CONTAMINATED SEDIMENT IN GALVESTON BAY-HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL" (article by Chunlong Zhang, Gabriel Zheng, Gregory Holston, and George Lambert University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Texas 77058) (and I wish I understood this better...I'd like to reach one of the authors)

Toxics Release Inventory Program (US EPA)

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Mocking fat and showing surprise at too skinny is disingenuous

Every week I have to go to the grocery store to get perishables. Every week I have to stand in line alongside a plethora of gossip crap tabloids (sorry if you like Enquirer and Star, really sorry). Every week the covers of these magazines wallow joyfully in the muck of other people's lives, in a completely schizophrenic way.

Schizophrenic? Huh?

You see, alternating issues---or worse, sometimes even the same issue---mock "fat" celebrities and then turn around and castigate "too skinny" stars. (They do the same for make ups and break-ups.)

The articles are always so surprised and confused, even faux-concerned, "Why are these women so thin? They need to get healthy!"

Let those same stars gain a little weight and VOILA! they are back on the cover, mocked as fat.

Take, for example, Tyra Banks, who, as I once said oh-so-eloquently is so not fat. And yet, people of her size (i.e., me) are often treated as though we are large as in oversized as in FAT.

Take, for example, the time I had a salesgirl act as if my size---a regular size, mind you, not plus (not that this is a problem), okay it's a 12. I wear a size 12. I am almost 6 feet tall and weigh 160 and wear a size 12. I should probably lose another 10 pounds but I struggle enough to be at this weight thanks to my thyroid and pituitary and adrenal gland issue(s). I tend to grow large abdominal cysts, too, thanks to the pituitary, which is screwed up and causes these horrible growths that swell and hurt, cause me to bloat terribly, and appear seven or so months pregnant at times. Like in the photo Kyla recently posted of us. Two days prior to that? I weighed 8 pounds less than in that photo. Today? I am five pounds down. Yep up and down like a yo-yo. My record is 12 pounds up and down in a three day period. I never alter how I eat. I don't falter on my exercise. My body just malfunctions that way. It sucks, to tell the truth. I have no less than three sizes of clothing in my closet to accommodate it, sometimes wearing all three in one week. I am self-conscious about it, horribly cruel to myself at times about it (what did I do? what can I do? oh my god I look horrible! ) and feel not only bad physically but also emotionally as well at times.---(do you recall the original thought before I got so far off on the tangent? it was about the salesgirl and my size) the salesgirl acted as if my size was so enormous that she wasn't sure her store could accommodate me for the fashion show my group was doing.

So. We can harp at these salesgirls and these magazines but the truth is they are just saying aloud what I think many if not most of us think.

Additionally, I think there is a disproportionate emphasis put on women's physique. My husband says men get it too, but I still think it's less and not as vicious. I think there is a sort of indulgence for men rounding out a bit.

I haven't noticed tabloid covers mocking male celebrities who have passed 30 and rounded out at the edges:

Of course, there is no tolerance for fat, be it male or female.

But I'm talking about that extra rounding many of us get about the middle of our bodies after a certain age.

And that's what these magazines go after. That's what is on their cover. That's what the papparazzi are photographing on the beach.

And like nasty little sorority girls using permanent marker to circle body areas that need improvement, the magazine uses big red arrows to point out "fat" spots on bathing suit-clad celebrities, with all cap headlines that yell, "Butts & Bellies!"

I had to search for a cover that included a man, because I wanted to talk about that. I notice that in this case, the man is the "good" example next to those women, who clearly we must be appalled by (gag). The truth is, the photos are usually of women, usually in bathing suits. Tyra Banks (for context, her 5-foot, 10-inch frame weighs in at 161 pounds) in the swimsuit is the most famous example.

My sister recently coined a new term: momorexia.

This is the disproportionately high number of disproportionately thin women Jimmy Chooing it around the upper middle class neighborhoods. Like other women, I am not so immured in my role as mom that I am okay with sliding into frumpiness completely. I've argued the entire vanity issue before. I've also argued the MILF issue. Moms today want to retain that "hot" part of themselves, the part where they feel attractive and think they look good. To others.


Is this really what we think of as beautiful?

I know where this comes from: the accepted practice of mocking fat, or what our distorted lenses tell us is fat.

We women have a big image issue to overcome, every single day. It can be a battle.

I shudder to think what the tabloids would have to say about me in this photo, were I worth talking about in the tabloids, which thank all the stars I am not. Were I worth talking about anywhere, it would probably be more for what I have to say than for how I look.

Although I consider myself attractive enough, I would never trade on my looks, could never do so. Not just for the type of person I am but for the looks themselves and cultural standards of beauty. It shames me to say that in a way, that matters to me, probably more than it should. As much as I don't want to care and only want to see a woman happy, having a good time in this photo, I don't. I do care about how I look and am critical of it.

I knew, as the largest person at the table, that I ought to run around behind the smaller people. But I didn't. I forced myself to sit where I was. I forced myself to not be vain, not be silly. I can't force myself to not care, though, and I look at this photo and oh how I wish I'd darted behind my friends, instead of emphasizing how much larger I am by remaining prominent and in the front. I want to be truthful about this because I want to demonstrate how these things affect even an intelligent woman who is reasonably confident in herself. I want to say them aloud in case you feel this way, ever, too. In case you look at photos of yourself and are horrified.

It doesn't matter that I know magazines Photoshop even the gorgeous, the stunningly beautiful, the Faith Hills. That's what our eyes have been taught to look for in photos of women, and you don't overcome that distorted expectation overnight.

Let's keep trying though.

And let's ban Photoshop, shall we? Faith doesn't need it. And neither do you or I.

Make sure to read Jenny on this topic, too.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's because the companies don't give a rat's rear, actually


As Americans, we like our things. Boy, do we like our things. We like our little impulse buys and we like our big luxuries.

But we want it affordable.

So we've moved from a culture of craftsmanship to a culture of mass production. This isn't limited to products, either. It extends all the way to customer service, too.

My mind started down this path a while back, but it began honing in on the topic late last week. A week ago, my husband and I took a long weekend getaway to a little resort within driving distance. It was our anniversary trip, and we'd planned it long before the other travel came up. While there, we chatted with a man who asked where we lived. We told him and he asked if we were "from there." My husband said yes, I said no, and somehow within a few minutes he was telling us he'd moved from Maine around the same time as us for more or less some of the same reasons.

"I grew up here," he told us, meaning the city near the resort, "But like you was away for a long time. You forget a few things, like how fond Texans are of their big trucks. Everyone here wants some enormous SUV and the more luxurious the better. I was talking to a guy the other day and he was saying he wished he could afford something, and I thought, 'Guy, you have a Lexus SUV and you can't afford this, are you kidding me?' It's a matter of priorities and Texans will sacrifice anything for a luxury huge truck. Not only that but they'll do it every couple of years so it's always new!"

I started thinking about it, and decided he was right. Texans are overly fond of fancy and huge vehicles. I've driven through some areas you might consider poor. The houses are ramshackle, broken windows patched with cardboard, yards overgrown...certainly not affluent. And yet, in the driveway? A brand-new Expedition.

My husband and I consider a car something you buy, own free and clear, maintain and drive until it crumbles into pieces on the side of the road. Every now and again we crave a new car, or a minivan. We consider how much it would cost and that we'd have to finance it, and suddenly the approximately $1000 per year we spend on our cars doesn't seem like much money. We want safe cars, good cars. And we have them. new cars are nice, but it's not our priority and we won't risk other things for a new car. Our priorities are attached elsewhere.

This seems to be atypical for our area. You might be shocked by the number of H2 Hummers on the roads here. I am.

But it's reflective of our cultural greed. Yes, I said it: g-r-e-e-d.

I'm not immune. I'm greedy too. Our cars are old and old-ish and paid for, but they are nice cars.

I fall victim to consumerism in every other way too. I want a nice house with nice things in it. I want my world to look pretty, and I want what I want when I want it. I like being able to take trips; buy Halloween costumes for my kids; come home from Target with a non-catastrophic shopping trip due to a stroll down the dollar row, cheapo toyesque crap in two small hands.

I'm susceptible to commercials and messages that tell me I need. I'm gullible to sales, and tactics that induce a false sense of urgency to "buy now! good deal!" in me.

I have had to work hard to overcome these urges and create new buying (or rather not buying) patterns. I have to work carefully to maintain purchasing balance, working within my budget but not to the unnecessary for us extreme of total deprivation (which can prompt a spree). I understand I am a product of myself and my culture, and to people who'd love to simply have one half of one of my meals for one day, I sound ridiculous. Not to mention the rest of what I have.

In the end, these days, what sells me is service.

I like to use my buying power to a good end. In return, I like to feel good about how I spend my money. I want to make sure I've spent it on what I should, where I should.

I haven't felt that way lately. I think this is largely because most of my money has gone to service, service for my house.

I've written about my aggravation with Best Buy and Whirlpool. I've ranted somewhere (here? there? everywhere?) with my ongoing annoyance at the plumbers who have not fixed my plumbing.

I do know I've ranted at the home warranty company to whom I pay insurance extortion to make sure we can repair things that go wrong in our "vintage" home.

The girl who listened to me practically snapped her gum in my ear in boredom.

"My GOD," I wondered to myself, all 85 and curmudgeonly, "Whatever happened to commitment to quality? To service? To caring?"

I realized that most of these service representatives are probably a generation behind me and don't recall a world that wasn't here today, gone tomorrow mass produced.

And I suddenly felt not only the paralysis of aging but also the realization that the world is moving forward faster now than I am. Worse than that, I realized I have become one of Those People who happily reminisce about the Way Things Were. And even worse than that, I was forced to acknowledge that I preferred the way things were in the Olden Days.

I live in an el cheapo world of mass production and nobody but me expects anybody to care or anything to last longer than a year.

I sat there and told that home warranty customer service girl that they should stop working with this plumbing company if anyone other than me had a problem because it reflected poorly on their company. I repeated myself three or four times because she had no reaction or response whatsoever and I thought she must not understand me.

No, it is me who misunderstands.

When I pondered deeper, I realized, "What are the odds this girl makes as much as much less more than $10 an hour from a company she cares not one whit for and probably will not work for in one year's time?"

Slim to none, my friends.

She has no motivation to care about me. She doesn't care about the company that employs her; it's just a job, and probably not even one she likes at all. I bet she didn't even bother herself to write down my complaint.

The plumber? Although he ought to have a commitment to craft, he works for a Big Company now and is assembly line like everything else these days.

The fact that he barely fixed one problem, created another, then took nearly a month to come back and fix that, which he tried to do half-assed after arriving three hours late (creating an 8 hour wait time for me)? Didn't even register for him.

I reported poor customer service to people who didn't care who worked for a company that didn't care.

It's because they don't care about building customer relationships any longer. They don't. One time sales. In and out. Up the bottom line. Decrease expenses. How big a bonus can the CEO get and how little can we pay our employees?

Loyalty is what is missing, and because of that, care and quality are what is missing.

I don't have a McLife. I don't drive a McSUV. I don't live in a McHouse. I don't SuperSize everything. I like the Simple Life, green, high-quality and considerate.

I feel like an old-timer when I say it, but I miss the old days when more things were out of reach. When things weren't so mass produced because everyone felt an entitlement to everything. When customer service wasn't subcontracted to another country where people really named Jaimin answer to Joe and try for a generic US television accent, and cultural needs and nuances are lost, as are personal relationships and caring.

It might be monetarily cheaper for companies to invest in new customers instead of retention of existing ones, but it costs us so much more in so many other ways.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

For my friend Flutter: Luciana Souza

I adore bossa nova, and really like what Luciana Souza has done with it, maybe more than Bebel (Gilberto)! Plus she duets with James Taylor (who knew he was huge in Brazil!).

Please watch this interview with Luciana as she eloquently explains her bossa nova (in English) (includes some musical samples):

I love how she describes bossa nova as reflective and introspective, a poetic and lyrical musical interpretation of life. I think this is why I love it so well.

Five last words: Luciana Souza and Pablo Neruda.

Whose voice does she put you in mind of? Curious to see if it is the same as me!

Note: Don't miss my post about living Green-ish rather than as a Green Queen below! It ain't easy being Green!

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tripping the organic and mindful life fantastic

A blogger I really like recently wrote a really fantastic post about mindful, organic and green living. Her journey began with cleaning out her closet, paring down to only what she needs. This is a goal I've had for a long time, but can't seem to accomplish. It's an emotional hurdle I need to overcome.

If Helen Buttigieg (my idol) were here, she'd have some wise words on the matter of why I retain clothing I no longer need (most of which doesn't fit my body or my current lifestyle). After puzzling out that my clothes are the only area of material possessions in my life that are ridiculously cluttered and to which I illogically cling, she'd figure out why.

She'd figure out that I cling to my old clothes because I cling to the past, and am not easily able to let go or transition. Although generally I deposit my memories into stories carefully stowed in my own mind---which is, of course, cluttered---to be pulled out in fanciful moments or as fodder for social amusement (or blogging), I do imbue my clothes with them too, the only objects to which I attach these emotions. She'd know that I feel my clothes are a part of me and that they represent me in certain times of my life that I am not emotionally finished with yet.

Like the business suits. I am not finished with being an ambitious professional career woman yet. Even though I'll never wear these suits again (out of size, out of style), and even though should I need new business clothing I'd have to spend the money anyway, I cling to these clothes, murmuring in my mind, "I might need them sometime..." I think, though, that these would be the easiest to get rid of.

Like the business casual slacks and shirts. I am not finished with my DINK days when I could afford Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer and J Jill. These are hard to get rid of. I keep thinking I am so close in my weight and fitness improvement to these sizes. I keep thinking I can wear these again, and I'd never be able to afford to replace this quality. But will my body, even down to my happiest possible goal weight ever fit these long slender pants, worn by a not-yet-mom? Perhaps these are hardest because they represent saying goodbye to my youth.

Like the sweaters. I am not finished with living in a climate that requires long sleeves and sweaters. I packed my sweaters in boxers with cedar sachets, but I have sucked up valuable closet real estate with these bulky storage containers.

I could go on and on: the dressy dresses, the fancy blouses, the cute outfits. All are clothing that meant something big to me at an important point in time in my personal past.

Helen Buttigieg would be understanding. She'd pat my shoulder and say, "You haven't quite accepted where and who you are in life now, have you? You're having a hard time letting go of who you were, what you did and where you were. But these clothes won't fix that. They won't bring it back. And they are frustrating you, reminding you of all that, and making a mess in your life. It's not just physical clutter, it's emotional clutter. You need to let it go."

And like all the women on her show she says this to, I'd cry. I'd release a torrent of tears because for me, it's hard to change, hard to get older. As much as I adore so much in my life right now, appreciate my blessings and benefits, love my children and husband, acknowledge the good in the now, it's hard to reconcile...I'm not sure all of what, exactly. Of being here, of being this person, of being in this mode of living.

As the present has its pros and cons, so does the past. But as I admitted in my Bad Day post, I cling to the good just as much.

Letter 9 (the blogger who so motivated me today) went on to say how the clothes were merely her first step into exploring better living. Once she breached that hurdle, her mind opened and cleared and she saw many other ways to live more green, more mindfully.

The point of all this, of course, is health. Emotional, physical and environmental health.

I found myself thinking of all the times I'd launched a campaign for the obvious healthy choices, such as the ones she mentioned: fair trade, local business, organic, etc. I thought of how each time a bit of it stuck, but on the whole I found myself back to economy and convenience.

For example, last year, as this blogger has, we made a decision to look at how we lived, and to make changes. In theory we are committed 100%. In actuality, it hasn't panned out.

If we lived elsewhere, like back in MA where our downtown was one block long and full of independent sellers and great products (pretty much everything you needed actually), I think we'd be more successful.

What I found here, though, was one farmer's market of organic produce, available only on Saturday, from 10-1. Soccer time. Also, extremely limited in produce and very extremely expensive. One apple there equaled a pound of apples at the grocery store.

So now, one 30 minute driving trip plus 30 minute shopping time later, I had produce.

Go to local grocery. This is a local business but carries limited products and no organic. 15 minutes driving, 1 hour shopping.

Now I need organic perishables and cleaning products (Method). 40 minutes driving to big chain grocery or Target, one or so hours shopping.

I can get fresh local seafood driving back from Target, but it's about 15 minutes extra driving out of the way.

And so on. I found myself going through half a tank of gas (at least) and a full day (at least) of running from distant spot to distant spot.

In the end, it seemed to do more harm than good.

When life is good, I can open up my time (and wallet, since all of this costs so much more) and make the choices for healthier---the ones I want to make.

But when time is tight (and it usually is) and the dollar is short (and it usually is) it's hard to look at the nearly $4 healthy environment dryer sheets versus the $.99 ones. It's hard to decide to schlep around and juggle conflicting schedules and so forth to hit all the different stores with their independent hours of operation. It does require more thought, more planning, more time and often more money.

I keep saying, "When things get better..." such as when the kids are back in school, or we get more income or less bills, and so forth. The problem is, I am likely asking for an ideal, which never comes. On the flip side, I am reaching for an ideal one can never reach: perfection.

As with everything I approach, I want to do my very best, no, scratch that, be perfect at being Green.

It is as impossible as it feels.

So what I have had to do is accept that I am a product of my culture to a degree---like my comforts and convenience---and weigh what I want and can do with what the earth needs.

I'm by no means the best Green person around, but I do a little here and a little there. I wash clothes as efficiently as possible, do not water my lawn, conserve resources as I can, keep lights off, use the right bulbs, do not drive large fuel-consuming cars, minimize driving, buy local when I can, and so forth. I know I leech out resources and so forth in other ways. But I'm trying and that is worth a lot so I have begun giving myself credit.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Gone on to eternity...

Deborah Kerr's obituary appeared in the newspaper today.

I read it and felt sad.

A generation of people---influential, culture-altering, gentle boundary breakers---are vanishing and their time is fading away, relegated to the past.

It creates in me a sense of urgency to capture them and their time before the chance is lost. I have a deep interest in doing this. It's not gone or lost if we still know it and remember it.

Just think about it for a minute. Deborah Kerr was 86 when she passed away. That means she was born in 1921.

In some ways, 1921 was much like 2007:

* The Boston Post exposed the swindle schemes of Charles Ponzi (namesake of the Ponzi Scheme)

* Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize.

* Politicians and politics were up to the usual posturing and scandal. Today it's Larry Craig, and in 1921 it was North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier, who was recalled based on a dispute about the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and State Mill and Elevator. Frazier held the dubious honor of sole governor ever recalled until Gray Davis (California).

* Racial tensions exploded in Tulsa in the infamous Greenwood Riot (where estimates of deaths ranged from 300 to 3000).

* Energy resources were on people's minds as the miners and mine owners fought the Coal Wars. We still rely on coal, and still hear news stories of the same sorts of disputes, and similar tragedies and losses of people in coal mines.

* Woodrow Wilson was leaving office and Warren Harding was assuming the office of President. Interestingly, I've seen a number of comparisons of Bush to Harding. Harding did end World War I, although as we saw a few years later, not well, and died in office.

But, in 1921, although automobiles were common, there wasn't yet a car in every garage. People didn't have computers, cell phones, the various technological gadgets, or even cures to things we simply think of as annoying illnesses or diseases nobody gets any more.

F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the essence of the 1920s with accomplished flair that made his works classics. His only child, Frances, was born in 1921.

There's a lot at base we have in common with that time, but there is also so much different. So much has changed since 1921. The people of that generation are the ones who can tell us all about it...and they should, and we should listen.

People born in 1921 saw a party era similar to the 80s, a depression era more intense but somewhat comparable to the 90s, three major and tragic wars, a complete shifting of global borders, and a massive shifting of cultural boundaries. Now that's a story.

Deborah Kerr herself is an interesting story.

According to CNN

Kerr (pronounced CARR) was the only daughter of Arthur Kerr-Trimmer, a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14.

Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when she was 5, and she started to study dance in the Bristol school of her aunt, Phyllis Smale.

Kerr won a scholarship to continue studying at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School in London. A 17 she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de ballet in "Prometheus."

She soon switched to drama, however, and began playing small parts in repertory theater in London until it was shut down by the 1939 outbreak of World War II.


She continued making films in Britain during the war, including one -- "Colonel Blimp" -- in which she played three different women over a span of decades.

She was invited to Hollywood in 1946 to play in "The Hucksters" opposite Clark Gable.


Her best-actress nominations were for "Edward, My Son" (1949), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "The King and I" (1956), "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957), "Separate Tables" (1958), and "The Sundowners" (1960).

Among her other movies is "An Affair to Remember" with Cary Grant.

Other notable roles were in "Beloved Infidel," "The Innocents" (an adaptation of the Henry James novella "Turn of the Screw"), "The Night of the Iguana" with Richard Burton and "The Arrangement" with Kirk Douglas.

After "The Arrangement" in 1968, she took what she called a "leave of absence" from acting, saying she felt she was "either too young or too old" for any role she was offered.


In 1945 Kerr married Anthony Charles Bartley, whom she had met as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1959. A year later she married Peter Viertel, a novelist-screenwriter, with whom she lived on a large estate with two trout ponds in the Swiss Alpine resort of Klosters and in a villa in Marbella, Spain.

Kerr is survived by Viertel, two daughters and three grandchildren.

Deborah Kerr capitalized on the boundary breaking that happened for many people of her lifetime. Initially stuck in the more approved of "demure" acting roles, British-born Kerr used the movie classic From Here to Eternity to break out past that and show real women, with real lives and problems.

Based on the 1951 novel by James Jones about his experiences on Oahu with Company E of the 19th Infantry, From Here to Eternity launched Kerr's career to a new level. Her role as Karen Holmes, neglected wife of Captain Dana Holmes, grabbed us equally with horror (as she followed a selfish path to self-destruction) and pity (when we learned what drove her and realized, as she did, that her path had lead her to find love and honor amid ruins). It also lead to an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. After this movie, she played a broad range of interesting characters.

I recently watched From Here to Eternity again, and added it to my list of favorite classic films. One reason is because it shows us the complicated sides of people living in a different time, distant yet so similar, so relatable.

Farewell, Deborah, and thanks for the amazing acting in some incredible films.

From Here to Eternity featured the song Reenlistment Blues, a song that plays a large part (almost its own character) in the film. I have a YouTube version of Merle Travis singing the song in the army barracks. Later in the film, Clift's drunken character sings it in a pitiful and pivotol moment. Here's the song with a movie clip:

Edited add:

I just found a brief clip of Montgomery Clift doing the song, but only the first part, and only a link because the embed is disabled. If you are that curious, click here to see it.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products