Friday, November 30, 2007

One is silver, the other is gold

A hundred years ago I was in fifth grade, at another new elementary school, my fourth. My parents had divorced and my mother returned to teaching. She moved us to the neighborhood near her school, which also happened to be the area a single mom could afford. The neighborhood was vastly different than the cushy middle-class suburbs we'd grown up in.

It was a rough school in a tough neighborhood of what at best could be called working class and at worst could be called future gang territory.

There were a few other wide-eyed new kids, other suburban exiles, and a couple of other more seasoned suburban exiles. We must have sensed a sort of recognition of one another, because we gravitated and bonded rather quickly.

I made friends with Shannon and Kellie, and formed a competitive and slightly antagonistic friendship with Neeley, who had never been challenged for Top Academic Dog before. My heart was broken by Ruby, who rejected my poetically offered friendship request with, "I don't play with white girls."

My friends and I, as girls will at that age, formed a tight club. We all answered to White Girl as if we were one, but we had names: Julie, Kellie, Shannon and Lori. Until Lori moved away and Becky and Kristine moved in...two other girls who moved down from the suburbs after a divorce. We played tennis after school and joined Girl Scouts.

Among other things we learned in Girl Scouts, we learned a song that stuck with me the rest of my life:

Make new friends
But keep the old
One is silver
And the other is gold.

I believed in this song, but I don't think it believed in me. I kept moving, and when you're young, it's hard to keep in touch. I managed to keep in touch with a few friends for a few years, and Shannon through college, but eventually, when maps grow too distant and no longer overlap? You forget the gold. Or the silver. Whichever means old friends. I always thought old friends were gold, because it's a soft, comfortable, subtle, malleable metal, not as shiny and sparkly as silver, and I knew how easy it was to get sucked in by shiny and new.

We moved again in seventh grade. Where I made a great best friend in Emily, and discovered the two sides of myself, the contradictory sides. Other people weren't as keen on these various edges to my personality; they seemed more fixed that I was. You were either a good girl (Emily) or a bad girl (Carrie). I felt like both, and I liked both, equally. But people preferred you to stick in your assigned stereotype, as we learned during cheerleader tryouts.

I remember in the Spring Kristie was the only one from our group in the Pep Squad who tried for cheerleader (in my case, what was the point---we were moving again and I sucked at gymnastics). Watching her audition was painful. She looked awkward, out of sync, so much younger and smaller than the others---typical of seventh grade, where we all ran on such a wide range.

But I remember our friend Roxanne saying, "You gotta love her for trying, bless her."

And that opened up a window in my mind. It made me realize something about friendship, about sticking by friends, and about worthwhile friends. Roxanne was a wise and kind girl, and I wish I'd gotten the chance to know her better and longer. It might have made a difference in my growing and evolving friendship skills.

Instead, we moved again and I changed schools again in eighth grade.

I lost touch with all of them, even Emily eventually because she moved too, to another state even, and airfare...well, flying wasn't something you did a lot back then.

And we both got caught up in our new lives, and in high school.

I've recently found and reconnected with some old friends from the past, some good friends.

I'm trying to figure out what to do with these friendships from the past. Is it enough simply to know they are Okay in the Now, but the friendship belongs in the past? Or should I take the song literally---as is my wont---and make them friends now?

I am Retriever level loyal, and my heart never lets go of those it loves.

My actions, sadly, are not so consistent. I get caught up in the present and lack the talent of making and keeping new friends and old ones, too. I attribute this to so much moving around, which often seemed to necessitate letting go of the past, and paying careful attention to the present and future.

Still, I yearn towards these friends from the past. I have learned how important the past can be to the present, and how valuable some people are.

I think I finally comprehend the song's message.

However, a lot of time elapsed, and my mind and body are constrained by the here and now; I have friends now, good friends, nice friends. Friends who are both Carries and Emilys and friends who are one or the other. I can barely pay them the attention they deserve. Two friends this week are sick, or dealing with catastrophic health issues. Two friends are dealing with major life alterations (divorces). One friend confided a surprise pregnancy. And so on.

I am lucky today in the people I know, as I have been lucky in the past. What a quality round-up of good friends, in so many ways.

But how do you combine the past and the present? I've never stayed anywhere long enough to have the two overlap. Suddenly, though, now, they seem to be.

Are the past and present like oil and water?

Or like silver and gold, complimentary, even though a little against traditional rules?

How do you make new friends, and keep the old?

The Girl Scouts still sing that song, by the way. My daughter's troop sang it at the induction ceremony. I felt a pang in the region of my heart, wondering about Shannon, and Kellie, and all the rest.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Blogging Pledge Class for November

Because sometimes it's hard to spot the little treasure in the big picture...

THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

---Emily Dickinson

Hello all!

Yesterday I posted my 600th post. This is 601. It is no surprise to people who know me well that I haven't even come close to running out of things to say.

However, today I'm not going to bend your ear about me or my thoughts.

Today I'm going to bring your attention to some other bloggers. These are new, new-ish, noteworthy, recommended by someone, or blogs someone found...or any combination of those.

The blogosphere is huge, and it's easy to get lost or lose the chance to run across someone neat.

So I started the Blog Pledge Class (that name's a joke, but the action is not). As long as I get interest and links sent, I'll keep it going.

Meet November's Blog Pledge Class!

(It's a lot of links, but if you have some time, scroll through the descriptions and click on some links. As I read each submission, I kept thinking of bloggers I knew, "Oh he/she'll like this one!" So there's something here for you that I think you might like.)

Hello Insomnia by Kirida---sent in by Flutter who said this blog is hysterical...and she thinks she's in love...

Seafoam and Cocquelicots---sent in by Angela at Reality Testing

Slow Panic by Jodi---sent in by Liv

Onomatopoeia by Chris M---sent in by Emily R at Wheels on the Bus

I'm a happily retired teacher … heretofore "closeted writer" … and total "newbie" to the Blogosphere. With encouragement and support from a couple of friends, I've been blogging for just 26 days on two sites ... testing the waters, expanding my horizons, sharing what I write bit by bit.

One is Sacred Ruminations, a place I've taken up Carla's Sacred Life Challenge, writing of my own process, shared some inspirational stories & informational links, and recently posted some original "visual" poetry.

The other is Small Reflections where I've explored the virtual medium, shared personal stories, photos, and observations with occasional links to sites I've happened upon during my virtual explorations.

Across the Gypsy Flat Road---Stephanie's blog is one I happened across somehow a little while back. It might have been following an intriguing trail of comment crumbs.

Mary Joan of The Matriarch:
At age 62, I am the matriarch of my large family. I have 4 grown
daughters, 3 sons-in law, and 1 six-month-old grandson. I have 5
younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, a grandnephew, a grandniece,
and 45 younger first cousins. I am married to an English programmer;
I am divorced from my first husband of 28 years. I have worn many
hats: book editor, children's and young adult librarian, social
worker, La Leche leader, childbirth educator, manic depressive, and
internet tutor. I stayed at home full-time with my girls from 1973 to
1988, from 1994-1997. I have raised my girls in 3 different
universes--New York City, Long Island, and Maine. I took care of my
mom 24/7 the last 3 years of her life.

My blog is about mothering, grandmothering, marriage, mental illness,
families, feminism and social change.

Minivan Diaries---she found me, I admit it, but I am glad she did because then I found her. Here's her synopsis:
I am a stay at home mom of 4 kids (20, 17, 16, 12) - although I have had various part time jobs -- I started out writing about my family and my kids and how experiences they've had interact with the bigger world - sort of -- but as time has progressed I realize that my greatest passion continues to be child advocacy (I have a law degree and was planning to pursue a career this way) so most of my posts of late have been less personal and mostly about issues that affect kids. Anyway, take a look and let me know what you think: My tagline under my title reads: "Thoughts about kids ... and how events, no matter how small and no matter how big affect them".

Open-Hearted Life---another one who lead me back to her blog through comments:
I'm a Reiki Master, drum circle facilitator, and single unschooling mom of two boys. I'm an unschooling mom, meeting life and experiences with an open
heart... most of the time.

Professor J's Place---a very new blog to me, and a fellow Texan. I'm enjoying getting to know her.

Taking what is left is Melissa, who I met through my INTJs blogging group at NaBloPoMo. She's in my reader.

That's actually a great group of bloggers.

And so is this list!

Congrats to the November bloggers...and hopefully, everyone found some neat new blogs.

(If you notified me of a blog to include in November and I missed posting it, many apologies, Please email me at j pippert at g mail dot com and let me know.)

If you'd like to be listed, send me an email at j pippert at g mail dot com with the subject line "December Blog Pledge." I'll add you in to the next class.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Points of Interest (at least, hopefully so)

Tomorrow is the Blog Pledge Class for November posting make sure your name is on the list if you want your blog or a blog you like featured. Just send me the link and a brief description and I'll post the blog!

Also, I haven't got a topic up for the Hump Day for next week. Feel free to send me suggestions. In fact, keep in my mind that you can send topic suggestions any time.

It has been pointed out to me that I should mention this:

My site was nominated for The Blogitzer!


My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

You do have to go to the Blogger Choice Awards and register to vote (if you choose to vote). It's a fairly easy and painless process. If you right click on the badges above, and open a new tab or window, then it should take you to the spot to vote. Just make sure you log in.

I'll admit it: this is very cool and an honor, and any vote will be a nice feeling. Thank you.

I got tagged for two memes. Lori at Spinning Yellow tagged me for the 7 Facts meme and the Queen of the Mayhem tagged me to love myself nonsensically through the Alphabet List.

You know's got to have a twist. So the 7 facts will be six true things and one lie. You tell me which is the lie. I'll try to make it relatively easy, and I'll keep to a bit of a theme.

1. I met Stevie Ray Vaughn, Charlie Sexton and Jimmie Vaughn in a bar once. It was after they'd played a local gig, and we shot some pool and then they took out guitars and sang a couple of songs.

2. I was That Girl who leapt up on stage with a band once, overcome by my adoration of their music. The kindly lead singer took pity on my blatant fanhood and let me stay up there with him and sing a song.

3. I chatted with Sarah MacLachlan over margaritas after a small venue performance early on in her career. I'd never heard of her before that performance (although my date had) and I was very taken by her singing ability. She graciously received my accolade and tolerated my questions about her inspiration.

4. I sat in on a recording session by Garth Brooks. I also "sat in on" his rehearsal before a sold out concert. In that case it meant outside the room; he's got stage fright and is nervous so rehearsals are closed to other people.

5. My best friend from elementary school and I reunited later to perform a rousing duet on piano and viola of "Brian's Song" that moved one judge to tears and won us the top competitor's honor for that year. Having achieved that pinnacle, I quit music entirely.

6. Both my husband and I have near perfect pitch hearing, which has been passed to our children, who were able to distinguish notes and tunes from a very early age. However, they also both inherited our completely off-pitch voices, which is sad considering that they also inherited composition ability from both gene pools, too.

7. My first concert was to Bruce Springsteen and was involuntary. My dad won tickets and sent me and my sister alone. We were both so young he had to drive us, drop us, and pick us up. We were not the same girls he dropped off when he picked us up. We returned knowing a lot about marijuana, sex, the state of Bruce's marriage (at the time), and we never said a word about any of it to either parent.

I am short on time for the alphabet thing so let's just hammer it out:

A- Assertive
B- Bold
C- Critical thinker
D- Dynamic (stolen from Heather and it works)
E- Eloquent (also stolen from Heather and it works, too)
F- Frank
G- Generous
H- Helpful (also stolen, also the way, Heather and I took some Facebook Quiz and got similar enough to be the same difference...see why I can just keep lifting from her? LOL)
I- Intelligent
J- Judicious
K- Knowledgeable
L- Loyal
M- More than a little feisty
N- Natural
O- Open-minded
P- Peaceful (there is a flip side to the feisty)
Q- Questioning
R- Responsible
S- Serious
T- Tall (also stolen, also appropriate)
U- Unique (stolen again, still on target)
V- Varied
W- Well-grounded
X- X means experimental
Y- Yearning
Z- Zealous

I tag: Melissa at Taking What is Left, Yolanda at Callipygian Chronicles, Christine at Running on Empty, Angela at Mommy Bytes, Cerebralmum, Professor J, and Michele at the say hello to new friends and thanks to older friends. It's nice to know you and I look forward to learning more through the memes!

(Pay attention that Old and New friend thing because one is Silver and the other is Gold...which just might be a rhapsody on a theme of blog exchange coming up this Saturday.)

I also pass along the Thank You award that Angela kindly gave me:

to each of the tagged above (and yes, I know that means a couple of you get it twice, but I may as well tag AND say thanks!)

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Viral Vitriol: The Hump Day Hmm for 11-28-07

A woman complained to a friend, "She told me that you told her the secret I told you not to tell her."

"Well," replied her friend in a hurt tone, "I told her not to tell you I told her."

"Oh dear!" sighed the first women. "Well, don't tell her I told you that she told me."

Back when we were still single, my friend Laura and I as well as some other friends went to see a movie. Afterwards we all decided to pop in to a bar-n-grill place. We ordered food and drinks but I think (more than anything) people just wanted to prolong the socialization. As tends to happen with a larger group, the conversations became fragmented and segmented across smaller pairings of people. Laura and I sat beside each other and joked about the lead actor, who we thought was very good looking.

"I wouldn't throw him out of bed for eating crackers," I joked.

"Ha ha I'd even have his baby," Laura, notorious for not being keen to start having children anytime soon, joked back.

By the next day, the news in the social group was that Laura was pregnant and "who is the father?" speculation began.

Laura was furious, "Why would they believe something like that? I'm not even dating anyone right now!"

I said, "I think the bigger question is why would they want to believe something like that?"

What prompted someone, who misunderstood a fragment of overheard conversation, to spread it, and what prompted the next person to pass it along?

Eventually, a concerned mentor took Laura aside for a Quiet Chat.

Laura fumed to me later when she called to tell me this new turn of events, "What gets me most, Julie, is that nobody even bothered to ask me if it was true. They all just assumed it was! Everybody has been talking about me but nobody has been talking to me!"

It took a while to dispel the rumor, but eventually, it did die down, largely because of the new one that took its place.

Why do we do this? (And confess...we all do this!)

"...gossip is more than just idle chitchat, it's also how we arrange our world as social animals," says Nigel Nicholson, Ph.D. in his article The new word on GOSSIP, "As anyone who has lived in a small community knows, gossip is something that people who share a collective identity do naturally. But rampant individualism, the fragmentation of our lifestyle and the pervasiveness of competitive striving can drive gossip and rumor down more poisonous channels."

I recently discussed my reservations about the new media for gossip: techgadgets that record sights and sounds quickly, and the ease of transmission for broadcasting it.

Nicholson has an answer for that, too, "It is only in recent biological times that we left the world of clan-dwelling primates for the world of agriculture, city settlements and, eventually, business organizations. We inhabit our high-tech world with Stone Age minds because there has not been enough time to change our psychology to match our environment."

I think he is saying our means exceed our ends. Or our technological means exceed our personal smartness means. Either way, I think I agree. We're still just humans, just with cooler toys.

Toys, as I said, that can be used or abused.

Stories---be they gossip or news---are so easily spread via the Internet.

Once upon a time criminalists were concerned about sharing certain criminal news stories for fear of copycats, which invariably occurred.

It's true: newsmakers break through boundaries and it somehow gives others permission, too.

For example, in Jena, Louisisiana, the Jena 6 scandal broke.

Not long after, hundreds fled Pearland High after a similar noose incident.

Eventually, this story resulted in an MBTA worker being suspended for including a noose as part of his Dia de los muertos costume on Halloween.

Viral is the new black. We have viral videos, viral blog posts, viral gossip.

The catch word of the day is viral.

What makes something so catchy and what makes us so willing to spread it?

What is gained when we do this? And what is lost?

If you have a theory, feel free to let me know.

In the meantime, I'll scan my husband's latest read, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (do I want to know why this is what he's reading these days?) and you can read what others have to say about the topic.

Please share your experience and thoughts about viral news and gossip.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Inconvenient Truth: Transcript of my testimony to the EPA at the NESHAP public hearing

When I tell people that pollution made me sick, I get one of two reactions: absolute agreement or utter disbelief.

I'm not sure why we’re so skeptical that we have a serious pollution problem in our country and that pollution is unhealthy.

I think it’s an understandable disbelief, though; it’s the same disbelief we feel when people do terrible things to other people on purpose.

But it happens, such as polluting our environment with harmful things---however inconvenient it might be to accept this.

It's inconvenient to believe that the industry that makes Houston so prosperous is also the thing that is most harmful to it. It's inconvenient to believe that there are harmful pollutants in our air, water, soil, food, shampoo, cosmetics, and yes, even our children's toys. It's inconvenient to believe that these things---these everyday things---could seriously harm us and our children.

But more than that, it's scary, so it's easier to turn our faces and hide from the inconvenient truth.

The truth stares me in the face many times every day. It’s in my hair, my cells, my brain, my endocrine system, my rising health care bills, and my family’s stress and anxiety about my health. It’s in the handfuls of medication I take daily to try to maintain something close to healthy. It’s in the fear I have of cancer, because we’ve already had that scare once.

It’s in the questions my children ask me for which I have no answers, “Mommy, why are you always sick, will you always be sick?”

I found the truth a month ago when—after two years of testing---my doctor said, “It’s the hydrocarbons in your area. They’re endocrine disruptors, and you’re a textbook case.”

Quick explanation

* The endocrine system regulates metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, and mood. It’s key to a healthy immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease.

* A mutagen changes your genetic information (usually DNA). Most mutagens are also carcinogens.

* A carcinogen causes cancer.

Endocrine disruption sounds relatively innocuous when you just say the words. But it’s not. It means there are mutagens in your body, damaging your organs, messing up how they work, creating a poor quality of life and health and potentially causing cancer.

These mutagens come from pollution…from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, among other common pollutants, such as pesticides. They bind to your fat cells. If your body can expel them as fast as or faster than they enter, then they might not do much damage, but if for some reason, they come in faster than your body expels them, you can end up very, very sick. Like me.

It might harm unborn babies, mutate bodies, and prevent children from growing and developing properly. Because these toxins attack the endocrine system, the reproductive and hormonal organs are at great risk.

However, my doctor’s diagnosis was bold: endocrine disruption in humans has been a fiercely debated topic for over 20 years.

But I knew he was right.

After countless missed diagnoses, specialist referrals, medical exams, and costly medical procedures and treatments (none of which worked), I finally had a diagnosis that fit exactly.

It explained my failing pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, the constant abdominal cysts, the pain, the forgetfulness, the weight problems, the fatigue, the depression, the migraines, the life-threatening allergies, and it even explained why it seemed as if my body had tumors: the PAHs disrupted my endocrine system and made my body malfunction as if I had cancer. In my body, PAHs act like tumors.

People can debate the effects of pollution and endocrine disruption in humans as much as they want. I know the truth. I know it’s real, and I know I must live with it and suffer from it every day.

Quick facts

* The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the CDC) released a Public Health Statement for PAHs because they’re a hazardous substance that may harm you.

* The EPA flagged 1,408 hazardous waste sites as the most serious in the nation. At least 600 of the sites on the NPL have PAHs and are potential or actual sources of human exposure.

* 42 of these sites are in Texas, and 18 are in the Houston-Galveston area.

* My town hosts one of the worst offenders, which ranks on the Toxic Release Inventory list.

I’d like to leave you with a few parting thoughts:

By allowing any amount of pollution, which is harmful to humans, we are asking citizens of the United States to endure harm.

In her book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote in Chapter 2, The Obligation to Endure:
“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.”

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.”

That was forty-five years ago.

People in Houston seem to accept being sick, having terrible allergies, and high rates of cancer as normal. At some point, common became confused with normal. It’s not normal. It doesn’t have to be like this; it shouldn’t be.

When I moved to Houston three years ago, I was very healthy. Since moving here, I have had to endure increasingly bad health…due to pollution.

My doctor’s ultimate prescription is for me to move away.

Is this the future of our town and community? That people will have to move away to preserve their health? Their children’s health?

It seems a sad prognosis to me, for Houston.

Please tighten emission restrictions. Help us clean up our town so that it isn’t known as the most polluted city in the USA…the unhealthiest due to pollution.

Help keep the wonderful people who make it a great city right here, because they don’t have to choose between health and community.

We need the EPA for that…we need you to set strict limits, enforce them with a zero tolerance policy for noncompliers, and set limits that put the citizens and their health and future as the highest priority.

The truly inconvenient thing is that we are being asked to endure this pollution and its harmful effects on our health.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Note: And think of me in the morning as I present this. For locals, here is the information:

The EPA is coming to Houston on November 27 to hold a public hearing on NESHAP (National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants). It will be the only one of its kind in the country. The hearing will provide an opportunity to formally ask the EPA to set fair standards, so that families living close to the refineries can have a chance to breathe cleaner air.

The hearing will be held at the Hartman Park Community Center, 9311 Avenue P. The hearing will begin at 9 am and continue until 9 pm or later, if needed, with meal breaks at 12:30 and 2:00 pm.

(That's the Pasadena/Galena Park/Ship Channel area.)

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How to raise campaign funds using Miss Manners' Guide to Wedding Registry Etiquette

Recently I mentioned missing the lunch party at a private home for guest of honor Barack Obama. When Catherine Morgan ran that article on The Political Voices of Women (a great blog you ought to be reading if you aren't already, and I don't say that just because she listed me in her fantabulous 250 Political Women Bloggers), a reader somehow thought I was saying Hillary Clinton was better than Barack Obama and used better fundraising techniques. Although I thought it was fairly clear that I was abusing all politicians equally, and expressing my disgust at a system of campaign fundraising that distinctly needs reforming as well as my consternation that an entire majority of voices are silenced due to lack of economic privilege, I grant that the reader's comment had a point.

Therefore, when Hillary Clinton's invitation to a coffee and talk landed in my email this morning, I thought I'd better make sure to comment fairly and equally on her fundraising practices and how they discriminate against the less economically privileged, too.

Here's Hillary's event:
Wednesday November 28, 2007 "Women Making History with Hillary"
Hillary Clinton Reception
Date: Wednesday November 28, 2007
Time: 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Type: Breakfast (Public)
Location: Hilton Americas, 1600 Lamar, Houston, TX
Join Hillary Clinton for her "Women Making History with Hillary!" tea reception in support of her 2008 Presidential campaign ($10,000-Chair;$2300-Host;$1000-Sponsor;$100-General Admission.

4:30 pm - Chair and Host Coffee;
5:00 pm - General Reception
For more information or to RSVP, please contact Yael Ouzillou or Stephanie Davis at 512-440-8791 or email or
You can also visit https//contribute.hillaryclinton/events/houston1129.html


I think it is necessary to point out that Hillary does drop down to $100. She does also go up to $10,000.

And that's when it occurred to me that Hillary was employing the Judith Martin approach to fundraising.

[It would be oh so much better to go without saying that YES in my upbringing there was in fact not only charm school (clearly a waste of everyone's time and money) but also the requisite reading of Miss Manners Guide to a Genteel Life (also possibly a waste of everyone's time and money---although I caught the main concept at least) (please rest easy that I was NOT a debutante). However, were I to omit this relevant fact, you could possibly wonder how it is that I have such a useless stack of manner knowledge in my cranium.]

Miss Manners advises that when one is getting married and registering for gifts, one must ensure to have multiple tiers of gift costs and both formal and everyday items.

When I got married, the basic tiers were:

Tier 1: $50 and under

Tier 2: $50 to $200

Tier 3: $200 and up

One's registry should be fairly evenly divided among the tiers, in order to provide ample opportunity for guests to purchase a gift within their means.

One should not simply register for what one wants; one should also consider what one's guests can and will buy.

Upon re-reading Senator Clinton's invitation, I see she has provided four tiers.

Bravo, Senator Clinton. And welcome to Houston. Now just don't breathe in too frequently or deeply.

While I am offering unsolicited advice, I'd like to add the following:

If you really want to see women making history and hear from the women who carry the present on their backs, how about a reception at a Tex-Mex restaurant with the following tiers of admission:

$50 chair
$25 host
$15 sponsor
$10 general admission

It is my humble opinion that those are amounts the average joe can afford.

Alternatively, Senator Clinton may attend the candlelight vigil for health and clean air at Hartman Park tonight at 7 p.m. It's sponsored by the Mothers for Clean Air.

There's some women making history, Senator.

On Tuesday the EPA is coming to Houston to host an innovative public hearing about National Emissions Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants. It is the first and only of its kind in the US. (Note, please, that is in HOUSTON.)

Individuals---hopefully including me if I can get my voice back---will have the opportunity to testify about how air pollution has affected us. A sort of victim's voice moment.

I promise there will be lots of women making history there.

I may not be going to a reception that raises funds I don't have for a candidate I'm not sure about.

But I'll be making history, regardless.

I'll be actively doing my part to clean up this planet.

P.S. Please don't miss my Monday Mission to help a friend, below.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Monday Mission: How to help a friend achieve her goal

My Monday Mission today is to help a friend, step by step.

As you may (or may not) know, Stephanie (aka LawyerMama) has been hoping her celebrity crush Wil Wheaton will leave a comment on her blog. He did this for our friend Jenny, once.

I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and help Stephanie achieve her goal, because that is what friends do, right? They help friends stalk celebrities.

We're hoping more friends will join in. But you can leave your bag of duct tape, cutout magazine letters, Richard Nixon mask, and dime store cotton gloves at home. It's not that kind of stalking.

(Wait, is that the Stalker Kit or the Bank Robbery kit? Hang on, let me check the labels...oh, oops! Bank Robbery! It's so easy to get those felonies confused. The Stalker Kit bag is the one you get at the military supply store. Right: empty plastic jug, canteen of water, MREs, bag of Twizzlers, and binoculars. Not even one supply in common. Sorry for the confusion. I'm still operating under Cold Medicine.)

To reiterate:

Not the goal

The goal

This is Girl Gush 1960 style stalking: you keep screaming his name from behind the red rope, maybe with a few, "Stephanie LOVES YOU WIL!!! AHHHHHHH!!!" thrown in and hope he turns and grants you a nod of his sorta kinda mostly semi-famous head.

This worked for me in 1990 with Neil Finn. I even got to see the inside of the band's tour bus and got an invite to a post-concert party. So I know it is a surefire successful tactic.

Famous people are just like any other people: they put their pants on one leg at a time.

Hmm, that doesn't work. As we all know or suspect (A) some celebrities don't wear pants (or underpants), (B) there is no telling how they put their pants on. They may have valets to do it, or some pole they slide down and put both legs in at once (or something way fancier than that...I mean, money buys everything).

I assume Wil is more likely than most to (a) wear pants and (b) put them on one leg at a time, but still, we're probably not going to get very far by calling a Celebrity something like a Normal person.

I mean, that's the point, right? They aren't normal.

Wait, that came out wrong.

What I am trying to say is that although celebrities are humans, they aren't normal like the rest of us.

(Someone PLEASE take this shovel away before I dig myself in any deeper!)

Okay look here's the bottom line: as anyone who is or even isn't normal might, celebrities like attention and their egos flattered. So that's what we're going to do.

We're going to flatter Wil Wheaton with positive attention in the hopes this will motivate him to leave a comment for Stephanie.

(Come on, Wil, it's the holiday season...share the joy.)

If you'd like to join in, here's how (it's so easy):

1. Write a "Wil, comment to Steph, for the love of Riker, just leave her a comment already!" post or postscript to a post, or comment here.

Come up with your own appealing reason of why he wants to do that. I mean, appealing to his love of Riker might not work. That might motivate me but perhaps not him. He might need something else, such as "for the love of traffic" or "for the love of NUMB3RS" or maybe even "for the love of book royalties."

If you are really, really cool you will be able to diagram a regression tree analysis using classic C&RT algorithms that demonstrate why commenting was a good idea (see the presumptive past tense that he did do it?). Or something like that.

2. Link to Wil's blog and Steph's blog. Use these links:
Steph's blog:
Lawyer Mama aka Wil's Biggest Fan

Wil's blog:
Wil Wheaton aka Steph's Fave Celeb

3. Link to this post a la a meme.

I will likely reciprocate the link love.

4. Comment so we know who to name when the police...I mean, so we can thank you.

Look how easy that is!

So help Steph get what she wants for Christmas. It's the best gift: feels good and takes up no space or resources.

Wil, show her the love.

P.S. Remember this Wednesday's Hump Day topic is the viral nature of news and gossip (or to that effect) and also this week I'll post links to November's Blogging Pledge Class. It's a good group so make sure your name or a blog you like is on the list!

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Must be something in the water

Hi there. Hope you are having a nice Sunday.

I realize that I ought to find something pretty to play or nice to say, but maybe later.

For now, click play.

* I am so sick. Someone call House. No, wait, don't. He tortures patients. I'm not that sick.

* It must be so freeing in a way to be okay with being an asshole. How is that such an endearing quality?

* I am loving this song.

* No clue whatsoever why someone put the song to a House montage but whatever.

* In fact, after downloading this band's version of Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want and playing back and forth between it and The Smiths, I'm hardpressed to say which I like better.

I'm shuffling back to my anti-viral tissues, Kombucha tea, and sofa for a Women's Murder Club marathon.

But I'll leave you with The Smiths...and please, please, please let me get well.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A taste for emotions of surprise and recognition

There are two kinds of taste in the appreciation of imaginative literature: the taste for emotions of surprise and the taste for emotions of recognition.

* "Anthony Trollope," Century Magazine (July 1883)

I have sitting on my bedside table two books: Richard Russo's new one (Bridge of Sighs) and Ann Patchett's new one (Run).

Patchett's book begins
Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle's living room asking for the statue back. They had no legal claim to it, of course, she never would have thought of leaving it to them, but the statue had been in their family for four generations, passing down a maternal line from mother to daughter, and it was their intention to hold with tradition. Bernadette had no daughters.

Aren't you intrigued, immediately? Who is Doyle? Who is Bernadette? How did she die? Why wouldn't she will the statue to her sisters? Did Doyle give the sisters the statue? If so, which sister got it? What is the significance that Bernadette had no daughters, outside of the issue of the statue?

I love a great opening, and Patchett's books always hold up to the promise of her beginnings. She manages plot, characters, and beginnings, middles and ends (Andrea will know of what I speak here---as we have confessed to the same geeky collection of writing and editing books) so deftly it is almost enough to cause me to quit offending the art of writing by doing it myself.

Patchett won't hold my hand or coddle me with neatly tied up answers in this book, I'm sure. She'll surprise me with ambiguity and complexity, and bond me to the characters and stories through moments of shocked recognition.

I suspect the simple last line of the opening, "Bernadette had no daughters," will be a keystone to the story.

Russo's book begins
First, the facts.

My name is Louis Charles Lynch. I am sixty years old, and for nearly forty of those years I've been a devoted if not terribly exciting husband to the same lovely woman, as well as a doting father to Owen, our son, who is now himself a grown, married man. He and his wife are childless and likely, alas, to so remain. Earlier in my marriage it appeared we'd be blessed with a daughter, but a car accident when my wife was in her fourth month caused her to miscarry. That was a long time ago, but Sarah still thinks about the child and so do I.

Those are some facts; they open such a can of worms, I imagine. Russo is, in my opinion, almost Shakespearian in his formula for his books. In Shakespeare what begins cohesively almost always unravels into pieces, with a very human resilience pulling pieces back together into a shape again, albeit usually a new one. Russo masterfully employs this technique, too.

His characters are invariably at a turning point; either their life or personal drive is shifting, or they are caught in a sea of shifting within others. Turning points are usually very contagious, I find.

I'm intrigued to discover whether our character Louis is about to turn, or if he is going to be caught in someone else's turn. Children are clearly very important to Louis; I wonder what the situation with Owen is. I can tell a lot about Louis from the simple order of his facts, none of which are actually very straightforward at all; he uses too many adjectives.

I just finished Nick Hornby's Slam, which, told from the point of view of a very practical minded teen boy, does include very straight-forward lists of facts and information. It's extremely black and white, because teenagers are not terribly skillful about shades of gray. Yet.

But adults, especially Russo adults, are.

The contrast in voice between the youthful Hornby character and the older Russo character should be interesting.

However, I haven't begun either book, yet. I am waiting for the uninterrupted time, the non-multitask time, because I know these two authors will drag me in to the story so completely that I will be snappish and short-tempered to anyone who dares pull me back to my reality in any way.

I got these books as gifts, and the rest of the gift I want is the time to read them, in total.

For now I'll keep plugging through the latest Jasper Fforde, which is choppy enough to easily be broken into short segments for the snatches of time I grab to read. It's full of fantastic quotes I keep thinking I ought to put in the blog, all on their own, because they are that good. Plus, great fodder for theoretical discussion. Fforde reached deep and rediscovered his intense cleverness with this book. Thank goodness.

(I'm trying to make time to review Slam and Thursday Next.)

Tell me about books and reading...

For example...What are you reading? Who are your favorite authors that you grab to read every time they publish something? How do you read? Do you gobble the books up right away or save them like a secret treat? Do you need to read cover to cover, or can you easily set a favorite down?

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

The number one reason I'm glad high school was twenty years ago

My blood runs cold...My memory has just been sold...

As the paparazzi (aka parents and grandparents) attacked the children yesterday---forcing them to freeze mid-bite, smile and pose, interrupting play to reposition the actors for the better video camera angle or asking them to do a scene over again for the camera, demanding cuteness on cue, and clamoring for poses of momentarily false affection---it occurred to me how much of my life is not documented on any sort of media.

And I added a new number one "I'm thankful for..." thing.

I'm thankful that very little of my youth is captured on film.

I'm thankful there is only one photo of me in a lime green polyester "Sunday go to meetin'" two piece suit.

I'm thankful there is no film footage of the great Bicentennial Fourth of July show that I wrote, produced and directed for the parents, using all of the neighborhood kids. I'm especially thankful there are no photos of my outfit from that day: cutoff blue jean shorts and a red bandanna top.

I'm thankful the photos of my gawky years are limited to a few stills. The skinny white legs and Nair-touted short shorts...not a good match.

There's a few embarrassing videos from the mid-80s when my uncle went out on a limb and got a new fangled personal video camera. Used to movie cameras that didn't record sound and couldn't capture movement very well, we all sat still, with only slow waves, and no talking. When it struck us that this camera was like a real camera, we decided to stage a production.


Key phrase from my childhood: stage a production

I genuflect in gratitude for the lack of documentation of this. It's so much better in my head.

However, thanks to a rainy day with four kids trapped inside and my uncle's video camera, we do have one staged production caught on tape. (That would be a big old heavy video camera with a gigantic VHS tape, for you young'uns.) We did spoofs of commercials a la Monty Python, which our cousin Michael had gotten us hooked on a few years previously. Back then we listened to things on records---that's vinyl for you young'uns---and that one Christmas when Michael and his family joined us, he asked if we had a record player to listen to something. My younger boy cousin, trying hard to impress Michael, pulled out his Mickey Mouse Club turntable and put on the Chipmunks Rock album. Even I knew that was Not Cool. Michael was nice, though, and simply pulled out his Monty Python record and put it on. The younger kids laughed but I am sure they didn't quite get it, other than perhaps the bookstore sketch and the bit about A Sale of Two Titties. I think we replayed that part 8000 times and roared every single time.

I'm grateful that's not on a video.

As for the spoofed "commercials" our sense of the ridiculous and admiration of Monty Python spawned a little later, eh, we had a good laugh watching it one year as adults. A single sampling of something we did all the time was plenty. I think the video vanished because it was never seen again (I suspect the boy cousin). So now it's just a memory too.

Luckily the Blue Brothers re-enactments, complete with karaoke-style singing along (with the record, on the turntable) with our favorite, Rubber Biscuit, is merely a wisp caught only in our minds.

I'm glad my junior high orchestra years weren't captured on anything other than a few photographs. In my head, we sound really, really great, and had a lot of fun. Also, I shudder to think what might have been recorded on any of our field trips.

High school is best left as undocumented as it was. I prefer what I have left of it, which is largely sanitized with a happy wash. Although by then the infant stages of the technology we have now had begun, it certainly wasn't common. When my theater class assigned a movie as our final project, we had to all team up because not everyone in the class had access to a video camera. If you read my high school meme two-part series---How I made it out of high school in one piece (remains a mystery not unlike any miracle of life) Part 1 and Part 2---you know the many reasons why lack of filmography is a very good thing.

College. Wow. College could totally have ruled out any future in politics for me had there been cell phones and cameras in said cell phones.

Poor kids of today. They will not be able to get up on any moral high horses and allege "pot smoker" to a President, who would not be able to allege he never inhaled.

It would all be caught on film. And put up on YouTube, to be accessed twenty years later during a local city council race, which would have stopped most current leaders dead before their political careers even got going.

I prefer my dusty, blurry-edged memories. I not only recall things as I want to, but I only recall that which I prefer.

What a lucky choice to make.

No boys snapped cell phone photos of girls in the locker room. Thank goodness.

No friend, only slightly less drunk, thought a quick snap of me worshiping the porcelain god would be FREAKING HILARIOUS to broadcast to every email address stored on her cell phone. Hallelujah.

Nobody filmed that horrible moment when, on stage, for the first time I completely forgot the dance choreography and just winged it. I can imagine, to appease myself, that it wasn't that bad. And without film footage of it, there is no Internet broadcast of the humiliating moment for all the world to laugh at.

Without the access to instant availability of film and camera, we simply lived life, instead of documenting its every minute, and we never had moral quandaries about "to record, or not to record, that is the question," much less, "share or broadcast, or keep private...that is the other question."

I don't think growing up with the technology makes it any easier for people to figure out how to use it instead of abuse it. I see a lot of abuse. Consider, for example, the (true? false?) snippet of a bride losing her marbles over her hair that probably broke records for email forwarding. I confess: I watched, total fascination with the train wreck.

Out there are a lot of snippets of people's lives. Moments they might enjoy having captured by camera, but more than likely, more moments they'd rather forget or simply allow to be rose-tinted by selective memory.

It's these moments that I feel very grateful to have grown up when I did. I'm grateful for the modern conveniences we had then, and grateful, too, for the ones we did not.

***Bonus points and bragging rights (of a dubious nature) to those who get the photo caption.***

Edited to add: I have many photos and a few movies from my past of me, my family, special events, and so forth. I'm glad to have those. I feel like we have a good documentation that I enjoy pulling out to laugh and smile over with my family and friends. So I don't feel like I am missing anything important, as some who lost or lacked photos might. I understand that.

The point I mean to make is two-fold: Back in my youth, I'm glad people weren't armed with cameras all the time everywhere, as they are now, and I'm glad the photos and movies from my past were taken when I expected a camera to be there and by people I knew and trusted.

It's not so these days, in this time when too many people always have a camera and think nothing of snapping a photo of anyone, any time, any place. Further, too many people think little to nothing of sharing that visual with the world at large.

That's the real part---not the joking part---that makes my blood run cold.

With privilege (of technology) comes responsibility. We must use this wisely, with careful consideration, and teach our children the same. As wonderful as it is to have barriers come down for a potentially more unified and inclusive society, the downside is that the easily identified and culturally reinforced natural and reasonable barriers for privacy also come down. Therefore, we must be even more cognizant of respect of self and others, particularly when it comes to privacy.

Also, a photo or movie isn't per se indicative of reality or the whole story.

So, again, I have to say I am very glad that I am able to recall things as I will for many occasions, and there is something to be said about that; plus, the way I remember things is very reflective of what it meant to me, more so than a photo could be.

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I am thankful, for this and other things

Today I am thankful for beautiful and healthy children patient husband family, all of whom are here now
...the more food than we need today
...that I can provide my children with all they need and most of what they want
...our house that shelters us and is also a home (of just the right size)
...that I can reach out and find friendship, support, and caring when I need it

That last one includes you. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, comment to me, and share. Thanks also to you who write, too. A little Natalie Merchant (Kind and Generous) for you...

Have a really happy Thanksgiving! (And if it isn't Thanksgiving for you...have a really happy day.)

(Believe it or not...this is a Thursday Thirteen.)

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
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hump Day Hmm 11-21-07: Music is my imaginary friend

This week Emily requested we write about the soundtrack of our lives. Little did she know I had a post already written, in drafts, that was a soundtrack moment. She may have been startled by my quick agreement---or not. The fact that I already had something written wasn't the real cause of my complicity.

It's because I love music and I constantly have a life soundtrack queued up. I even used to---jokingly, mostly---have a personal "theme" song. It was The Honeymoon from Prelude to a Kiss. Anyone who knows me well and who knows that song has always agreed it was a great pick. It's not so much because of a "theme" as it is a sounds like I'd sound if I were music.

But I'm not music so I have loads of it, on, always. I like the radio because I like to be surprised, but often I'm in a particular mood or engaged in a certain activity and I like to pick. For example, cleaning often begs for the electric blues so I frequently clean to the tunes of Stevie Ray (God rest his soul). I'm likely to have John Legend on in the evening...he's very mellow and soothing to me.

Music is a sound of the soul of the moment for me, so certain songs can flash me into a specific point in time as vividly as a smell might.

The Doobie Brothers always puts me in a red station wagon with faux wood paneling, happily singing along with my mother and sister. Debbie Boone puts me back in Washington D.C. singing from a balcony off base. Another One Bites the Dust puts me in a roller rink, and a school cafeteria for the Day Police Came to Scare Us Straight about Drugs (back then it was stories about teens on LSD who leapt out of windows and kids who forgot their own names due to pot). Andy Gibb is the painful moment of slow skate, ladies' choice at the roller rink.

Too Shy by Kajagoogoo is me and a group of teens on a beach in Monaco at night, having a spontaneous "boum." The Tubes' She's a Beauty is my trip by "silver bullet" (old style RVs) to California and Oregon. Bobby McFarin is waterskiing on a lake in Arkansas. Howard Jones is high school, a particular group, my sort of New Wave phase group. Any John Hughes soundtrack and Tears for Fears is high school, too. Elton John reminds me of my insane first roommate, the one fresh out of rehab who had a psychotic breakdown; she played Yellow Brick Road obsessively. Bizarre Love Triangle is dancing at a club with friends. The Cult's Fire Woman takes me to my old "Melrose Place" style apartment.

And on and on it goes.

I can track decades, remember a timeline, and remember something I filed away to mostly forgotten when I hear a song.


They were in her car; she was in the driver's seat, he was in the front passenger's seat. He'd been in the back because shotgun in her car was usually saved for someone else, but they'd had to go back to the theater because someone else forgot some things in the excited chaos of a successful opening night.

He'd remained buckled in the back for a minute, but then laughed, called her James, and climbed over the seat to the front.

Now they sat silently in the car and waited. It was winter and cold so she kept the car running, the heater blasting warm air. The windows fogged up and he idly drew random shapes on the glass. She switched on the radio while they sat, even though neither was restless and both seemed glad of the chance to sit and wait.

"It's nice to just sit quietly for a minute," he said.

"Yeah," she said.

"It's been so busy and loud all day. I feel like I haven't been able to think in a week."

"I know. The big build-up to a show. Crazy running around, all the spazzing out. I'm not sorry it's over, for now, though," she said, trusting him to understand.

"Me neither," he said, "It was fun but now I'm tired."

"I think we're the only ones," she said, pointing to the friend they were waiting for, who had run into some friendly stragglers, others from the show. All were talking animatedly, clearly reliving moments from the night----mocking mistakes to make them funny instead of humiliating, and highlighting moments when it all ran perfectly with a good audience reaction.

They sat silently for a bit, again, a comfortable silence. Watching. These two weren't performers, and they often sat and watched. The friends outside the car puffed breath into the cold as they talked and laughed. They appeared like a pantomime, their conversation silent to the two in the car. Their hands waved to add weight to words unheard, laughs were exaggerated by excited bodies bending back. It suddenly struck her as funny and she laughed.

"What?" he asked, leaning up from the seat.

"It's just funny to watch them when you can't hear what they say," she explained.

He remained forward for a minute, watching. Then he laughed too, when their friend hopped in the air. The group outside began stamping their feet and clapping their gloved hands together to stave off the cold that seeped in, past their warm layers and shield of thrilled happiness. The tone changed, and the two in the car knew the outside conversation would end soon. A restlessness tinged the air in the car, now.

Cherry Bomb came on the radio, and he leaned forward to turn it up.

"I really like this song," he said, "Great lyrics."

"Hmm," she said, leaning her head against the headrest. She closed her eyes, and listened for a minute.

That's when a sport was a sport
And groovin' was groovin'
And dancin' meant everything
We were young and we were improvin'
Laughin', laughin' with our friends
Holdin' hands meant somethin', baby
Outside the club"Cherry Bomb"
Our hearts were really thumpin'
Say yeah yeah yeah
Say yeah yeah yeah

He suddenly banged his hands on the dashboard. She startled, eyes flying open.

"What, oh my God, what?"

"Why can't it still be like that? God, why does it have to be so complicated," he asked vehemently.

Her mind rolled, trying to find the point from which this outburst came, but failed.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

He settled back, passion spent. "Just, you know, it'd be nice if sometimes holding hands was enough, really did still mean something."

She understood what he meant, but didn't know who, where, when or why. So she remained silent for a minute.

"Did someone say something to you, something happened?" she finally asked.

"Yes. No. Never mind, I don't want to talk about it."

She looked at him, this friend who'd become like a brother, and she wanted to understand, to give what he needed, guidance or wisdom. Their group was a little wild, dramatic. She tried to think, decide whether this was specific or general, about him, or someone else.

"There's a lot of pressure," she began, slowly, stumbling a little for how to say what she wanted to say, "A lot of pairing up. But I guess not everyone really wants that, either at the same time or at all sometimes, for whatever reason."

Her words were vague and clumsy but he turned to her, his eyes vivid in the faint light, his face open and trusting, "Yes, that's it," he said, grateful, "I don't know why we can't just all hang out, why does everything have to turn into a flirt fest, and why is it always about the next step."

She knew his questions were rhetorical, and complex. She tried hard to ignore what lay under them, the faint thread she thought she'd began seeing woven into their interactions. She glanced back to the group outside. They'd huddled closer together, were looking at a program, maybe; they seemed to be planning.

"Holding hands does still mean something," she said carefully, "And it can be enough. But right now, sometimes...umm..." she trailed off, stared out her window into the dark for a minute, "The feelings, the excitement, it''s like being an adrenaline junkie. You just, you want that high, you feel this tornado inside and I don't know, sometimes you get that other people feel it too, and you just act crazy with it. It's just all in fun."

He stared at her. She dropped her eyes to her hands, and fiddled with the bangle bracelets on her wrist.

"It's not fun for everyone," he said, a hint of anger or maybe annoyance coloring his words. For a minute, she stepped into his shoes, saw it through his eyes. She felt a sense of disappointment with maybe a bit of disgust aimed at her, them.

She sighed. "You just have to take life at your own pace, and you can't get your panties in a wad when other people are at a different pace." She sensed his protest bubbling up before he even opened his mouth, so she held up a hand. He waited. She thought for a minute, tried to understand how much of it was her, how much was getting caught up in the flow, and where her ideas ended, her empathy began and his ideas started. "It's okay," she told him, "It's okay to have different ideas, not like some things. It's okay to think differently. Just...just be true to you, you know."

It was silent.

"Nobody has the right to ask for more from you than you can give," she added.


She had the feeling that she'd both succeeded and failed. They watched the outside group wave goodbye and disperse.

He climbed back into the backseat, and they watched their friend jog across the parking lot. He leaned forward and said quickly, urgently, "So, like, thanks for getting it, and talking, you know."

She twisted in her seat to look at him, "Sure. Anytime. I'm, like, open for a real conversation about whatever, too." She realized the wrongness, the misinterpretation of her words as soon as she said them, but it was too late. The car door opened, and someone else hopped in. She turned around quickly.

"God, it's freezing out there, warm in here, though, what've you guys been doing?" the new passenger said.

"Nothing," they both said quickly.

Seventeen has turned thirty-five (plus)
I'm surprised that we're still livin'
If we've done any wrong
I hope that we're forgiven
Got a few kids of my own
And some days I still don't know what to do
I hope that they're not laughing too loud
When they hear me talkin'
Like this to you

What's your music story?

Next week's topic: the gossip game. Talk about how news, good or bad, spreads, and is potentially contagious, and affecting (Impacting, for Emily); personal experience or philosophical's all good.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Put a sock in it, Maddy McWhine, and praise Jesus

This? This is the epitome of how we all feel some days. Is it not?

I? Have one nerve left. And it is frayed, my friends.

Frayed makes me think of a joke I formerly used to amuse the 5th grade set:

A string walks into a bar. Barman points to a sign and says, "See that? It says No Strings Allowed." String stands up, hunches over, and walks out of the bar. In the parking lot, he rips, shreds, rends and tears, then ties himself up. He walks back into the bar, where the barman eyes him suspiciously and asks, "Are you a string?" and the String says, "I'm afraid not."

Wuh wuh wuh.

Clearly I'm not smarter than a fifth grader. And that blog IQ test agrees. I got Elementary School, which so offends my extremely delicate intellectual sensibilities that I won't even deign to link to the test site. It can suck me.

See? Look at that: testy.

Testy is exactly how I felt when Persistence pulverized a cupcake in her car seat. (See cake shop story below.). I suppose you'll say I get what I deserve, letting a 2 year old have a cupcake in the car. Suck me. No, bite me. Wait, no, go bite yourself.


I have no idea what day of NaBloPoMoSoSlo it is, but I do know what day of the week it is: Day 2 of Children Home Full Time.

Hence the testiness and frayed knots. (Did you seriously just now get the joke? LOL)

But not the sole reason. Oh no I have been Determinedly Cheerful and Up With Life this week despite the constant catcalls from the audience.

As always I aim to please. Therefore, so long Pollyanna McBlithe and hello Maddy McWhine.

Go ahead and test me. Offer suggestions and ideas about how I can Better Mother and Prevent the Madness. Tell me about setting and enforcing limits, such as No Cupcakes in the Car.


Before you do?

You ought to know I have two highly sensitive IP tracking devices attached to this blog. And I'm not afraid to drive (outside of Houston---seriously, I'll drive in Boston or France happily before hitting a Houston highway), no matter that gas costs in excess of $3 a gallon (that's the cheapest gas in the state---must be some compensation for living underneath a scary number of oil refineries) (gas, by the way, that we are supposed to believe just went up because barrels of oil just went up, coincidentally right before a holiday many people drive distances during...isn't life so random that way? I mean, barrels of oil getting expensive right before a holiday? So odd how that happens, so consistently. It's almost too great a coincidence to be coincidence. Why, it appears almost like an organized pattern!).

Wow, really testy, even gas prices are pissing me off (but seriously I can't be alone in that).

How did I arrive in this state? Was it merely one cupcake incident and rising gas cost? Oh no, my pretties. It is never that simple.

Let's step through the Monday that was:

7:00 a.m. Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy! The kids have adjusted to that heinous form of torture known as Daylight Savings and are back to sleeping to 7 a.m. Praise Jesus.

7:30 a.m.
Is this eternal reef post just too whackadoo? Maybe I ought to channel Jenny and do it a la The Bloggess. Oh well, no time to second-guess the midnight writing. Must be ready to leave house entirely by 9:30.


I took my hard-earned birthday cash---and listen? At my age and stage it is definitely hard-earned---and bought a maid's services. Yes, the Best Gift for Me Ever: cleaning service.

People ask me what I want as gifts. I always say, "Cleaning service." And they laugh. As if I am being funny. Which I am not. I am being dead-straight honest.

Since I've already shared with you my list of skeeves, allow me to share with you a few of my Peeves:

Cleaning up
Cleaning up after other people
Cleaning up after other people who can't be troubled to tidy up after themselves even though the mom screeched like a fishwife for an entire day about tidying up
Cleaning up after other people who are grown adults and ought to know way, way better and whose idea of tidying up means piling it someplace like over the closet door or on the kitchen table even though the wife screeched like a fishwife for an entire month about tidying up

I mean really, these people know me, but have they met my Type A perfectionism?

I think my husband believes he can cure me of it by sheer dint of working in total opposition to it.

Newsflash: unsuccessful!
(Note: When being read aloud to from this post, this bit made my husband literally LOL, like, "JULES! You made me spit on my laptop screen!" LOL.)

Okay so...I hired a maid service to come clean my house because, by goodness, (a) I had some cash, (b) I'm old now damn it, and (c) I spend so much time tidying that there is no time left to clean---not the way I expect it to happen; see aforementioned Type A perfectionism, which, by the way, is only applicable to myself, my space and my endeavors---AND still have a life.

I've been asking around about cleaners, just so you know I did not pull this service out of the phone book. The woman-who-cleans-so-well-her-clients-speak-of-her-with-an-orgasmic-tone is not accepting new clients.

Plan B required.

At the bra-fitting party four people highly recommended their cleaner, who shall remain nameless but suffice it to say her Name is not her name although it is the name everyone calls her and is on her business cards and on her car and well, for all I know tattooed somewhere but...apparently not on her birth certificate or driver's license and I had to shred that check.

Regardless, I got her name-not her real name from the party.

Therefore, that party was not a total wash because (a) I got a good story out of it, and (b) I got a good cleaner recommendation out of it.

Oh, why would it have been a wash? That would be because, despite RSVPing with my bra size, it was assumed I had no bloody idea what I was talking about so they brought no bras in that size. I mean, nobody admits to being that small. It had to be a mistake, yes?


It's really freaking cool to have some woman after a fitting (and if you've ever had one you know what I mean here) say, "Oh, we didn't bring anything small really don't have much tissue up top do you?"

Oh tissue. Oh the horror. Oh the recollections. Oh the Judy Blume books.

I want you all to know I waited two full days before quipping, "Thanks for re-admitting me to the IBTC!"

Hey. It cracked up my mom friends. After two or so margaritas, some punchiness and err I don't know what. No kids, mostly.

So, anyway, I left the bra fitting party with the name and number of a cleaner. Who I called. Who came to check out my house.

Following with the theme of the week, as she breezed through the upstairs and downstairs, she says, "Eh, it's not very big, in fact, it's quite small!"

Stunned, I paused, then said, "Actually, it's just big enough for my family, just as much as we need."

Wouldn't she DIE to know this house is twice as big as our house in Boston!

I mean, that's some commentary, a cleaner telling you your house is pitifully tiny. Not---I am compelled to add---that it generated the price break I'd hoped for after she said it.

This should have been a warning, folks.

But remember, Pollyanna mode. I am not a bull looking for red flags.

So I simply unloaded the dishwasher, ran two loads of laundry, and did more tidying up so the area would be all perfectly prepped for the awesome cleaning that would happen.

8:30 NoBloPoMo can go BloMeFoSho. I cannot believe the pile up in my Reader. I hope these people will forgive me. I must breeze through in reader view.

9:00 Okay quickie hygiene routine, dress for morning walk.

Antsy kids and I are waiting. Maid is ten minutes late. I promised a walk and bike ride around town to take invitations to the birthday party.

9:50 Talking self down from mad.

10:00 Self is not agreeing to negotiator's terms for Being Talked Down from Mad

10:10 Maids have arrived. Praise Jesus. I run through Spanish numbers in my head. No, nine does not at all sound like ten. Set it aside, Maddy McWhine.

10:20 Girls and I hit the road and have a pleasant brisk walk through the neighborhood delivering party invitations. It's not even too hot. (Happy surprise.) I made the invitations myself and they look good, if I may say so. As we drop by friends' houses, a few were home and even invited us in for a brief visit. We managed to drag this out for almost two full hours.

12:30 Home, quick costume change for Patience, pay maids, and head to (I shudder to admit) McDonalds for promised playtime and junk food. Then off to scout dollar stores for party favors.
(Hopefully something in a bunny...a stuffed one, not a live one. I could not do that to people. Unlike some teachers. Who sent home Live Crickets on Friday. Hoppy was returned to his rightful place---the Wild---on Saturday as soon as I remembered he was in the backpack. I think we all, cricket included, sighed relieved and happy afterwards.)

2:00 No favors, but a friend gave a good tip for some Easter clearance merchandise.

Cake is ordered. Patience left her detailed spec and drawing with the cake lady. Yes, I hired someone to make it. I figured our mother-daughter relationship was more important. This way she can hate on someone else who doesn't do it Exactly Right. (That Type A Perfectionist gene is powerful.)

This is the spot where the cupcake pulverization occurred. Bring it on, people.

That's the best you've got? Okey dokey. Really, I hate to minimize your efforts, but you pale by comparison to my children, who are Masters Of Eat Shit and DIE!!!

At the front door, I instructed the children to Stop. Drop shoes. And tiptoe. DO NOT MESS MY CLEAN FLOORS! EVAH!
(Note: Is it tacky at this point to suddenly understand my cousin's opposition to her son getting a Boston accent? I have now begun the exact same objection to the Houston accent. Bring me idears, but DO NOT bring me warshers. Seriously. LOVE YOU HOUSTON, STG! I do. Just...not so much the accent.)

2:20 Persistence took my full glass of water and knocked it all over the freshly mopped FOR A NOT-SMALL FEE kitchen floor.

2:21 Naptime for Persistence.

2:25 Knock at door, a neighbor child seeking Patience. Go, play. Key word: quietly. Wake your sister and DIE, kids. I mean that sweet and loving, like.

I began mopping, for free, the kitchen floor. It was then that I noticed it. Crumbs? Are those crumbs under the kitchen chairs?

Why yes, yes they are. Crumbs. On my allegedly freshly cleaned floor.

My Type A cape unfurled from my collar and I began my inspection.

(This is hands down the shoddiest cleaning job ever. They didn't even try to put things back neatly. Oh I am pissed off.)

That's when Patience yelled, "My horsie! My horsie!" Her brand new party favor from her veryfavoritefriend's birthday party? We cannot find it. Still. I will never hear the end of how Those People Lost her Freaking Horse.

The small, awake children? Are banished outside.
It is here that Patience would like her list of woes inserted:

1. My horse is missing. Mommy will not find it.
2. Mommy says if there is no brain matter it's not a real injury and we can't have a band-aid.
3. Mommy will not cut the crusts off bread or rind off fruit.
4. Mommy makes us eat protein in the morning. She says donuts are not protein.
5. Mommy made me get a Big Chief lined notepad instead of a stuffed animal today.

Goodnight, Patience.

(Mommy says, "Complaints, lodged and filed in File 13. Have a nice night!)

3:30 After re-mopping the kitchen floor (and noticing spots missed completely) (and some dust bunnies in corners) and trying to set my house to rights (who leaves a sofa askew that way? who leaves pillows pell mell? who leaves books ALL DISORDERED AND CATAWAMPUS to each other and the shelf that way? Cockeyed books. My heart? It feels strained.)

Upstairs to my bedroom for a bit of relaxing clothes folding.

3:32 The 43rd interruption by Patience and friend who are meant to be playing outside quietly so as to not wake Persistence by ringing the bell repeatedly and sending the dog into barking frenzies.

Friend has had her bike chain come off. I fixed it and then endeavored to de-ick myself. A few minutes, one chain, very small could the mess be so big? Oh and wow, what great timing! Hot New Mailman just drove up with the mail. He waved and I wiggled my grease-stained fingers back. Charming.

Tonight seems like the exact night to go buy a casserole from Dish and Dash.

And to set the scene...

Monday resembled a day crafted by talented special F/X guys working on a Stephen King movie. It was foggy all a menacing creeping fog, not a nice, soft impressionistic one.

The fog retreated to the wetlands, lakes and bays for most of the day but as the sun began to set, it moved back in. The kids had been riding bikes but returned to home base insisting, for the first time ever, that they could not ride in the fog. That's how creeped out they were.

And that, my friends, is quite enough. It's time for Maddy McWhine to put a sock in it and praise Jesus, maker of grapes that turn into wine. And reason for Easter thus purpose behind plethora of Easter stock that stores are desperately trying to be rid of in advance of Christmas stock and therefore on massive clearance to my everlasting Peter Rabbit birthday party themed joy.

P.S. The maid returned and we took a Type A tour of the house where I pointed out the Not Clean areas. She offered to re-clean.

P.P.S. I just heard the weather report and they promise an actual "drop down below 60" cold front (that would be 30 whole degrees!!) for Thanksgiving. Praise Jesus and something to be really thankful for!

There we go. Put a sock in Maddy McWhine and things will work out. Of course, now I will be dressed and made up to the nines every day for a week around mail delivery time trying to re-image myself in the mailman's mind.

TOMORROW! Hump Day Hmm! Topic: Your Name: The Soundtrack. Music. Hearing a song on the radio can flash me back to a specific moment in time. I always laugh whenever I hear Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard because it makes me think of my sister and the two of us goofing off. There are songs I like when I'm happy, songs I like when I'm not. Music. What does it mean for you, in your life? Do you simply listen? Are you a singer? A musician? Were you one? The topic is simply: what role does music have in your life? (Thanks to Emily at Wheels on the Bus for this topic idea!) Wow us with your awesome songs.

Closing thought: My Parenting Secret Tip of the Week (no bakeries involved):

This thing can take any moment and turn it into laughter (you only need to watch halfway)

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
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