Thursday, January 31, 2008

My precious little agnostic atheist heathen

Yesterday Jon and I got called in for a Parent and Teacher Conference. For Persistence. Age 3.

The main point of the conference was to say we have a really bright, creative, independent, social, and cute kid.

But then the teacher---who, by the way, is an incredible teacher---got around to what she really needed to talk to us about.

That would be the incident between Persistence and the Priest.

As you may or may not know, we've been lucky to send our kids to Catholic preschool. It's a wonderful, small, sweet, connected, caring, loving, welcoming church. The attached preschool is the same. (If you knew me, you'd know what a serious whiplash-like change in opinion this is for me. In Texas I learned to be very, very afraid of anything claiming to be remotely connected to religion. The mere mention of "God" or "Jesus" sent chills down my spine. And I am someone who always felt very connected to church, believed, had faith, so forth. I hesitate to even use the word religious because, well, it sort of had taken on the tone of a Republican saying liberal, in my mind. The Catholic Church has been a welcome open-minded relief.)

Let me give a little back story here (wavy lines wavy lines wavy lines...)...

When we moved here from Massachusetts we ran into a major communication problem. Texas uses the same words and language as Massachusetts but they mean something else entirely.

For example:
In Massachusetts, "bless you" is rarely used and means "sorry you sneezed."

In Texas, "bless you" is frequently used and means either (a) I hope God takes as much pity on you as I do or (b) SUCKER! or alternatively LOSER! I have found that when people mean well, they don't offer the blessing directly from them, they offer it instead directly from God, as in "May God bless you."

In Massachusetts, "Montessori preschool" means a school that emphasizes a child's self-directed learning with loving guidance but largely observation from the "teacher." You can count on a classroom that stresses adapting the child's learning environment to her developmental level, and using physical activity to help the child absorb academic concepts and practical skills. We are very convinced by the Montessori approach to education. In fact, we set up the children's playroom with Montessori principles in mind. I did the same, believe it or not, in grown-up rooms the children use, such as the kitchen, too.

In Texas, "Montessori preschool" means academically severe bootcamp for tots.

You see the language problem here?

So you can understand why---when we moved here---we enrolled Patience in a nearby Montessori preschool when they fed us all the right words, even if they meant them differently. You can also understand why we immediately unenrolled her (two months later) when the mistakes dawned us, largely through Patience having hysterics every single day.

My new neighbor---now a best friend, and someone who happens, by coincidence, to be from Massachusetts, versus just lived there for a while like we did---dragged me to her kids' preschool. She said the magic words, "Really laid back...very loving and caring teachers...think it's a good fit for you...we just hang out...oh yeah and the moms socialize, a lot..."

I signed up pronto and found a great school that was just what we needed: an open learning opportunity for kids, with emphasis on love and care and socializing. The director's daughter became our favorite babysitter, I joined the mom's group, made neat friends, had fun on the playground three days a week and life was good.

Most importantly, my kids loved it there. Loved. It.

This is all why the opinion of the school and this marvelous teacher matter to us. Persistence, of course, means more to us than anything other than her sister.

That's why we were so distressed to hear of The Incident.

If you've been reading my blog, you've gotten the idea that Persistence is a fairly gregarious, attention-hound with a huge streak of smart and creative. Excellent qualities in a child. Unless you are her parent. Or teacher. Or, apparently, her priest.

I'm stalling. Look at this. I'm rambling, offering excuses, rationalization, even backstories for goodness' sake.

Okay. Deep breath. Here's what happened.

In the kids' interview, I admitted my children have a problem with potty mouth, or as the school calls it, inappropriate potty humor. We work on it, I swear (now...defensive).

Apparently, Persistence has discovered two new superpowers: the power of Class Clown and the power of potty humor, inappropriately.

She has apparently employed these powers inappropriately during mass and prayer, with a possible calling of the priest a "pooty butt head."

It is not appreciated, as I'm sure you can understand, to have a three year old holler out "poop" and "pooty butt head" and "GOD HAS POOP" and whatever else her vibrant mind can manufacture during mass and prayers. And let me assure you: she has a neon technicolor vibrant mind.

It's bad enough on its own, but it's a virus that manifests in two ways: mimicry and laughter.

Jon and I had two reactions: horror and hysterics.

I mean, it's wrong, we know it's wrong, oh it is so wrong.

But we couldn't help it: it's FUNNY!

We laughed. We giggled all the way home. We laughed at random points during the day when it popped into our heads, usually when Persistence reminded us about it by, you know, sharing what I've begun calling the Fortune Cookie Addition. This is whereby you take a regular thing you'd normally say and add "butt" or potty words at the end.

For example:

Meal-time prayer: God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our poop. Amen. (Said by persistence, unprompted, at lunch.)

You tell would not laugh? Not even a little? I mean, it even fits in, slightly rhyming.

We hid our laughter. We buried our faces. We ran into other rooms.

So she does this at school. It is not well-favored, looked upon kindly (albeit indulgently and with understanding), or appreciated.

We need to stop it.

How does one stop a runaway freight train, anyway?

Copyright 2008 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, January 30, 2008

Hump Day Hmm for January 30, 2008: Sweet Dreams

That year we went to Paris, and I fell in love with Renoir at the Louvre. I especially adored his series of the two girls, which reminded me so much of me and my best friend. I purchased two prints of this one, Reading in the Garden, because it was us. One for me and for her. As modern as the world got, some things never changed, and I think that's why Renoir is forever famous: his work is classic. There will always be dreamy girls reading together in a garden somewhere. And for those of us who once were those girls? Inside us remains, always, a dreamy young girl reading in a garden.

When I was thirteen, I thought it was just me. Isn't that how all teens think? It's just me, I'm the only one going through this, feeling this way, having this happen. It's a bold and unusual person who will share meexperiences and normalize, but in my case, I truly didn't think anyone could relate, and I might have been right about that, but I was wrong that it was just me changing: the world was changing too.

The world had transitioned from the 70s to the 80s, disco was dead, punk was on the rise, and in junior high, two big things came on the scene: MTV and an electronic game you could play on TV called pong.

Things weren't groovy any longer, now they were rad, and it was all about technology. Movies were about robots, aliens, and sassy teens from Valleys.

A sassy teen now myself, I boldly went to my junior high in a matching purple miniskirt set with purple leggings and purple legwarmers. I was bitchin'.

I liked my junior high. Although I sadly only went to that school for one year, I liked it. It was a great school. It had good teachers---the best I'd ever known---excellent programs, and enough nice kids that it didn't matter which part of the social scale you fell on. It's a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it, a nice junior high?

But it was.

I was lucky to have two best friends. Carrie from history and Emily from reading.

Carrie was fun-loving and crazy, especially boy crazy. She didn't mind my long crush on Gino, and completely understood when I dropped that crush like a hot potato after he finally spoke to me, only to say, "What happened to your real shoes?" and pointed to my super awesome new ballet flats, the height of fashion. Carrie and I were super fans of Mr. Harrison, the best teacher ever, who got us really excited about history and encouraged us to go on field trips. Carrie alerted me to flavored lip gloss and blue eye shadow, and taught me how to write ridiculous notes and fold them up fancy, with doodled ornamentation to make them pretty. We had scented pens with decorations on the end, and pens that clicked from one color to the next. Carrie was my doorway to adolescence.

Emily had long, straight, blonde hair that she usually pulled back from the top and tied with a bow in the back. She was reflective, but don't mistake that to mean quiet. Emily had passion for whatever her current topic happened to be, and she spoke up and out frequently. Emily liked old fashioned things, and had been a big Little House on the Prairie fan, too. She introduced me to Anne of Green Gables and the marvel that was L.M. Montgomery. Emily hooked me on current events, too. We went to libraries together, traded books, read together and decided it was okay to still have stuffed animals on your bed, even if you were in junior high. Emily was my safe friend, my window into childhood, the parts I wasn't ready to let go of yet.

At the end of the year, Emily and I both moved away. I had been so busy with my own journeys forward and back between teen and child, so busy with my new experiences, that I missed what was happening around me.

My mother remarried and we moved, again, to a new city. I left behind the nice school, the nice people, the good teachers. But before my life changed for the worse, I had the summer between seventh and eighth grade.

First, Emily flew down and visited me at our new house in our new town. She and my sister donned bridesmaid dresses from my mother's wedding and I used my new camera and new fascination with photography to take dreamy photos in the garden. We toured my new city, watched TV, listened to music, and all too soon, she flew home. Shortly thereafter, I flew to visit her, too.

It wasn't my first time flying, but it was still an experience I could count on one hand. It was the first time I flew alone. When I arrived, Emily and her family welcomed me, Emily with huge excitement and promises of a wonderful time. When we arrived at her new house, she took me on a tour and pointed out all the neat features, the best one being her room, which had several windows, all surrounded by trees. "It's like being in a secret tree house," she told me excitedly. She'd gotten a new bed and new bedspread, all done in the romantic country theme that suited her. Her bookshelf proudly displayed her collection of every single L.M. Montgomery book ever published. I only had the complete Anne series. Emily was a very proud girl and she was glad she had a better collection than I had.

While I was there, we picked strawberries and tried to make jam, toured museums and formal gardens (by ourselves!), and spent too much time sunning ourselves at her neighbor's pool...with sun-in spritzed in our hair to lighten it. Mine turned red, but hers got lovely golden streaks.

It only took a few days for us to run out of obvious ideas of things to do and get bored.

"I know!" Emily said excitedly, "Let's read every single play Shakespeare ever wrote! That can be our Summer Goal!"

But when we went to the library and saw what a task that would be, we changed our goal to only include the comedies. And so we passed the rest of the summer vacation reading Shakespeare instead of L.M. Montgomery. We laughed about parts, joked about which people we knew reminded us of certain characters, and shared general gossip and secrets---the sorts of things you can say with a true friend, who will accept and understand, and whom you trust.

When Emily accepted my crush on certain celebrities, I knew she had changed, too. I noticed her new bed didn't have any stuffed animals any longer. We adopted a scorn for all things childish, but we decided it was okay to still like Anne, even if we were nearly in high school.

I flew home, glad to be returning to my own place, but already missing Emily and her place. I wished we could move there, too. I wanted to enter this new time with my friend, have her with me as I began this new phase of life, as I tried to master and comprehend all the changes in me.

My mother looked at me and saw the changes, "Your hair is different," she said, "And you're so tan!" What she really meant was I looked a lot older.

I agreed, triumphantly, and added, "And there's more."

"You got your period," she said, "I knew it. I knew you would."

I nodded.

"Plus I read Shakespeare, now," I said, a tinge of arrogance to my tone.

"I see," my mother said. What she really meant was, and here it begins.

Looking back at photos of that year, Emily and I morphed from gawky and angular---with slightly too-long limbs and faces still round and soft---into long and lean almost young women. We showed the beginnings of our adult selves, some curves and thinned faces with structure. Our expressions changed, too. We posed and tried to look sophisticated. We dressed and accessorized differently. I left behind my cutesy ballet shoes earrings and chose chunky plastic disks, instead. My room, too, matured from child to teen. I hung art posters and photos of popular rock bands.

When summer came to an end, I excitedly began my new school, ready to take it on as the new, older me. It was a terrible place, the antithesis of my other school, every one of my other schools. Luckily, I came too late there. I'd already had good schools, good friends, and the wonderful summer. Those things sustained me.

That summer was the last time I believed.

And I spent the remainder of my childhood trying to recapture that time.

Now, as an adult, as I work to undo all the bad ideas and damage accrued in the years after that summer, I think back to it, I recall it vividly, pick it apart, stand to the side of those exuberant young girls who reached out to life with both hands. I watch, I listen, and I think, "How do I get something of that back? Something of her back?" That young girl was so sure of so many things. She had confidence and faith in herself, life and the people around her. She was sure she'd have good and true friends, and she needed only those. She enjoyed what she liked, and didn't worry about the rest. If I'm honest, I see traces of her in me now: the girl who could walk into a big, new school on her own and be okay; who would wear purple miniskirt sets because she liked them, beyond any need to be fashionable; and who knew quality of people over quantity. What is missing is the optimism. Time and experience has drained my glass to half empty, instead. Sometimes I wonder whether things really are that complicated; maybe there is simply more.

It is interesting how I grew away from her in my early adulthood and how I grow back to her as I get older.

What about you? What's a pivotol childhood memory for you? And how do you carry it with you now?

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, January 29, 2008

Can you see my blog in your feeder?

On Friday, per a request from Angela, I fixed my feed in readers to full. Apparently that killed my feed. Gwen kindly alerted me to the problem; she said nothing has shown up in her reader since then. I changed two settings and tried to keep full feed. If my blog still doesn't show up, I'm sorry but I'll have to switch back to partial feed.

Can you let me know if you see my blog in your reader and how it appears?

And by the way, I did post Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and today.

Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I handed the blog over to the kids for most of that time and they kept it up.

I'm not even going to bother copyrighting this. If you steal this post? More power to you.



Pure, unadulterated, flat out enjoyment...spraying fountain on a hot day on the boardwalk.

Image hosted by

Ever notice how unadulterated's root word is "adult?" Ever wonder about that? What do you say to children when they say how they can't wait to grow up? Do anything they want? Do you tell them the price of that freedom?

Someone once said that motherhood is like this super secret club and nobody tells you the membership rules until after you join. I think adulthood is like that. Would you have believed anybody who told you the membership rules? Would you have been so anxious to get here, if you had known?

Yes and no.

I tell my daughter, when she says she can't wait to grow up, that adulthood is a lot like childhood. Sometimes we get to choose and sometimes we don't, sometimes we can and sometimes we can't, sometimes we are free and other times someone is looking over our shoulder.

Don't be in a hurry to grow up, I tell her. Enjoy childhood. You'll never get to do it again. I'll never get to see her do it again. It goes much too quickly.

That's why I am so glad to have this moment caught, forever and ever as my daughter would say.

Original © 2005. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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, January 28, 2008

A Good Night Story by Patience---the Monday Mission

Every night our mom tells us:

Tidy Up
Wash Up
Brush Up
Go up
To Bed

Every night we tell our mom:

We don't want to!
One more book!
Can we play a game?

Every night our mom tells us:

I know
Time for bed
Time for bed

Every night we tell our mom:

But why? Why do we have to go to bed?

Every night our mom tells us:

Because your little bodies need sleep.

One night we were in the office doing a craft and mom told us it was time for bed. We said no, she said yes, and she carried me upstairs first. She looked at my little sister Persistence and said, "Wait right here, please, I'll be right back!"

But Persistence isn't very good at listening. She keeps her ears closed and her mouth open. Mom says she is a learning child and I think she better learn fast, because here's what she did.

When Mom got back, Persistence had climbed up the cabinet and gotten the paint out. She dumped it everywhere. All over herself, the floor and worst of all, our poor cat!

I heard Mom yell, "OH NO WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?"

And I knew it was bad again, so I ran to see. I couldn't believe my eyes, even though she does this kind of thing all the time.

Mom picked up Persistence and brought her upstairs to the bath.

She got us ready for bed, and even though she was mad, she put us in bed comfy cozy and gave us both cuddles and kisses. She does this every night.

Then she went downstairs to clean up the paint. She told us to have sweet dreams.

We both climbed quietly out of our beds and went to the window to look at the stars and make wishes. I think Persistence wished she could be good for once.

Then we both went back to our beds, climbed in, and got comfy cozy again.

Mom came up and gave Persistence extra kisses, and told her she was wrapping her love all around her like a blanket.

Dad came up and gave me extra kisses. Our sweet cat Francesca came with him and they both gave me extra cuddles, too.

We went fast asleep, just like that.

Then Mommy and Daddy went to bed. Brodie dog too. And our whole family went night night.

Good night!

The real ladybug slippers, featured in one of Patience's illustration. Can you find them?

This is part of the Monday Mission! Go see the rest here!

Note: Because Patience is a leftie, we always bind her books on the right side. :)

P.S. Don't forget the Hump Day Hmm this week is all about key or pivotol or special childhood memories and how and why you carry them to this day. Fits right in with the theme!

Copyright 2008 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, January 27, 2008

FRAGILE! Newborn babies are not as breakable as they appear

Little bitty Patience holding newborn Persistence, on her birthday.

Itsy bitsy newborn Persistence, who proved that newborns are much hardier than we thought, after all.

Yesterday began with big, exciting, happily anticipated news: a new niece! Just before 8:30 a.m. my youngest sister-in-law and her husband welcomed their new daughter. We're very happy, and today are going up to meet her. The kids are beside themselves with excitement---you know, the sort that makes you wonder if visiting is really a good idea.

Also, yesterday, while folding laundry in my room, I shamelessly eavesdropped on the kids in the playroom.

They were bickering. Patience was explaining that the new baby cousin was a baby baby, not a doll baby, and Persistence---because she's Persistence---argued the other line. I don't really think she thinks this, I think it's just her being her. But they are chattering happily about holding, hugging, squeezing, and so forth.

That's sweet and all, but also chills the blood in my veins.

I'll set their expectations before we go. And hope like crazy that works.

My sister-in-law is a new, first time mom. I know how that feels. Toddlers and small children look like Danger Number 1 sometimes, especially as they race at your newborn with their arms and hands outstretched (offering germs and grabs and clutches), legs pumping, eyes focused on the baby, not paying attention to anything around them, including cautioning words, as they focus their entire being on Getting That Baby.

I know they will appear this way to her, unless I manage to leash the intensity somehow.

I remember the first time we went to her new house.

She and her husband custom-built a home in a prestigious neighborhood in a fancy town south of Houston. They kept a detailed blog of the entire endeavor and each time I read it I marveled and then felt tired.

"I think you have to custom-build a house before kids," I told my husband, who grunted in what I assumed was agreement. He's so busy building for other people he has little to no time or energy to build anything for us. If he did, it would be full-time work.

We flew down from Boston to visit, and walked in all shined up for the party. We paused in the large, high-ceilinged entry-way and marveled. While we did so, Patience's eyes lit on five thousand valuable and vulnerable breakable objets (no, not misspelled, at that level, they aren't objects, they are objets). And she was off. Along with the cousins.

Gorgeous white furniture rested on beautiful piled white carpet, surrounded by white walls. Fancy and lovely white sculptures sat on top of glass tables and white Greek columns. The coffee table proved most intriguing to the children: woven and twisted columns offered multiple levels of glass top tables, and crawling avenues for the fascinated kids.

My older sister-in-law and I stood side-by-side, our bodies tense, our minds in policing mode, and our mouths busy, "Slow down! Inside voice! Look with eyes, not with hands! Ask first! NO! OH NONONONONONO!"

My brother-in-law and husband chased the children, zone or man-on-man as was necessary.

My mother-in-law comforted my younger sister-in-law as she tried to remain calm and happy hostess like while four children under six raced through her new home, her new, beautiful, white, breakable home.

There was very little visiting.

As was inevitable, things fell, got knocked, and eventually, her husband began carting things into their bedroom, which they then closed off. I don't recall anything broken or damaged, though, other than many sets of nerves.

My younger sister-in-law maintained her cheerful and polite attitude and smile, and even jokingly said, "Umm, hmm, maybe my house isn't quite ready to host children yet," as we gathered our things and left as soon as we could without appearing rude.

We buckled Patience into her car seat, and sat in our seats, sighing in relief that It Was Finally Over.

"My gosh," my husband said, "I wasn't sure we'd make it out of there without some permanent damage."

We both looked at Patience, sitting quietly, calmly and happily in her car seat.

"I'm not sure we did," I said, "My nerves are wrecked. What is it about beautiful and breakable that so attracts kids!"

My younger sister-in-law did slowly, over time, modify her house, just a bit, mainly the living room. Visits became easier on everyone's nerves. But the last time I was there, I looked at it with Mom Eyes...and pondered her due date, barely a month away. She saw me looking and said, "I guess we have a few more things to do before the baby comes, huh?"

I looked at the gorgeous statues, the glass topped tables, the white walls, the lovely silver sculptures and flowers gracing the dining room table...and I said, "Oh, you have time. Six months, probably. I believe in teaching kids to respect things, and not touch or grab. Where better to do that than in your own home? You know, for when you fail. But you'll have to figure out what works for you and your daughter. Depends on what kind of kid she is, how far you'll have to go baby proofing. Patience didn't need too much---she respects limits---but Persistence? We had to go All the Way."

She looked at me and I thought: she heard the first sentence and then it was all mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah. Like all not-yet-parents do, I suspect she thinks it's all a matter of Parenting Right. Like all not-yet or new parents do, I suspect she thinks her kid won't be like that.

To my sister-in-law and her husband? I say congratulations...and good luck.

Also? I humbly offer a bottle of ranch dressing and a glass of wine. It makes eating words much, much easier. ;)

They'll do great. I'm sure of it.

And my kids? Will be fine with the baby. Newborns are hardier than they appear, but so am I, and my girls know perfectly well how to be sweet and gentle.

I am the very embodiment of trust today.

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.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Interview with two small(ish) girls who will tell you what's what

Patience and Persistence wanted in on this blog thing, so I agreed to let them have an entry. However, faced with two obstacles (blank page and no ability to draw in this window) we compromised on an interview.

Mom: What's your favorite song?

Patience: Blackbird (the Sarah MacLachlan version) and Upside Down from Georgie (Jack Johnson).

Persistence: No! Tissy can't have Georgie! Georgie's MINE!

Mom: It's okay that two people like the same song. I'm glad when someone else likes the same music I do because then we can talk about it. So Pers, what's your favorite song?

Persistence: GEORGIE! (Upside Down by Jack Johnson)

Mom: Any others?

Persistence: WOO HOO SONG! (Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall)

Mom: Tell me about your favorite friend.

Persistence: SABI!

Mom: You've known Sabi your whole life, right?

Persistence: YES! Sabi habing birthday like I hab birthday!

Mom: True! Your birthdays are really close together.

Patience: My friends play jokes.

Mom: Play jokes? Like what?

Patience: I don't know, they just play jokes.

Mom: Okay so is this like the time that boy in your class told you he cut off his finger and the paper clip was holding it on?

Patience: No. Anyway he's a very naughty boy. He never gets trips to the treasure chest. Like I got yesterday.

Mom: You did get a trip, that means 10 greens in a row. And you got a pretty cool surfing penguin.

Patience: Yes! But he doesn't really surf in water, only if I hold him up.

Mom: Well, still neat, right?

Patience: Yes.

Mom: Pers what do you and your friends do at school?

Persistence: Pinch, slap and hit.


Mom: Umm okay, anything else? You do anything else, something fun?

Persistence: Play with ice. DOGGIE! You step on my books!

Mom: What did you do with the ice?

Persistence: Put it in cups. I didn't eat the ice.

Mom: I see. What do you wish you could do that you can't?

Patience: Draw really good pictures, like as good as in a book. I wish I could draw as good as an illustrator and write as good as an author.

Mom (not even wincing over grammar): Is that why you got the "How to draw" book from the library?

Patience: Yeah so I can get better at drawing.

Mom: Did that book help?

Patience: Yeah, but sometimes the rectangles are hard. I can draw a horse now, though, a little bit.

Mom: Pers, and you?

Persistence: I wish I could climb way way up. And fly over my school.

Mom: Would you wave at your friends?

Pers: Yes. I'd fly over Teacher and Sabi.

Mom: How high would you go?

Patience: Would you go into space?

Persistence: Yes! To the moon!

Patience: Would you do it over and over? Would you see a swan?

Pers: I'd see cuckoo ducks.

Much giggling and repeating of "cuckoo ducks."

Patience: What is a cuckoo duck anyway?

Mom: I don't know. Your sister has an intriguing mind.

Patience: Isn't that the truth! Are there princess cuckoo ducks? Is your pig named Coconut?

Pers: YES! Princess cuckoo duck!! NO PIG COCONUT! COCONUT CUCKOO BUTT!

More giggling.


Persistence flips her stuffed toy pig over, lifts its tail and makes a pooting noise. Giggling.

Patience: That's your pig's BUTT!

Mom: Hey let's talk about books or walruses or sealing wax instead, okay.

Patience: SEALING WAX! Is that for BUTTS?


Mom: UGH, anything else besides butts?

Persistence: Jump your pig on mine!

Chaos ensues.

Mom: Okay! Okay! Uncle!

Patience: Name my manatee, Mom.

Mom: How about Melanie the Manatee?

Patience: Okay!

Mom: Any closing remarks?

Patience: I don't have any more. Can we watch Wonder Pets now?

Mom: In a minute. Persistence, anything to say?

Persistence: PIG POOP!

Mom: Yep. Okay. That's deep. Go watch Wonder Pets.

Children exit making pig and pooting noises.

Mom: My little ladies. Cuckoo...cuckoo duck.

Note: Wow, there really is a cuckoo duck! Yeah, not the nicest bird ever.

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, January 25, 2008

Twitter-do or don't: 5 Reasons why I haven't "Got Social Media?"

I went to the Got Social Media? conference yesterday. Some of the best and brightest were there, and some of the even better and brighter presented. It was an interesting conference, full of good-to-know information, new concepts, attention-capturing speakers, and excellent networking.

So why, after it is over, do I still say I haven't Got Social Media?

1. Whoops! Wrong class! I was looking for "101---Social Media for Dummies" and accidentally sat down in "102---Social Media for Those With a Clue"

Have you ever walked into a classroom, sat down, opened your notebook (or your NoteBook), tuned in to the Professor, found yourself a little baffled, looked around and saw everyone else was getting it...and then realized, whoops! Wrong class!

Okay maybe not but I'm sure you can sympathize.

I spent an entire semester in geology feeling that way and whoops! It was my class and whoops! It was one of my required courses for my degree. I freely admit I cried my way to a passing grade in that class. (And if that TA is reading now? Genuine tears. Swear. I really did try. Hard. And I did think you were Wicked Cool. No lies.)

I just kept staring at those rocks and they all looked I'd spend every single day with my TA staring at rocks. He'd try to help me get it---distinguish materials, become enthusiastic like he was---oh he'd try so hard. "Look at the striation on this, Julie, it's clearly a...." and I'd say, "Igneous," because eventually that was bound to be right, right? My TA would drop his head to his desk and laugh and cry. "That's a grouping, not a rock!"

Trust me, friends, it wasn't a tactic. It was honest stupidity. I could not wrap my mind around rocks. It was a classroom joke, but everyone knew how hard I tried and every single person helped. Final exam? Lots of coughing that sounded distinctly like "basalt," "pumice, "limestone," and "sandstone." A curse that sounded just like "schist." God love geologists.

So that's how I felt yesterday at the conference. Earnest speakers conveying important information, a crowd all open and understanding receiving it...and me. At each break I'd talk to the people, "Do you twitter?" I asked, hoping I had the verb right. Maybe it should be "use Twitter." I think so. I hate verbing nouns. ;) But do not ask technology people this question. They will look at you like you just said, "Igneous."

Each earnest and dedicated social media person tried to explain to me---in the two minutes or less that you can get one-on-one in a crowded room of very social people---how they used social media. The problem is that their explanations were all predicated on the assumption that I knew what social media was. I have a vague idea. It's sort of like pumice is an igneous rock, right?

(Do not say this aloud. People will then suspect you are dumb as a rock. ;)

Laura Mayes provided the best the end of the conference, unfortunately. Also unfortunately, her presentation about what social media is and how women are a part of it was cut short because everything was running so late. I wish she'd gone earlier because then I might have started off understanding more.

I'm not anywhere near dumb as a rock and I have an idea of what social media is.

However, beyond, say, Twitter, I'm unaware of the tools, how they work, how to use them, and most importantly, why to use them. I have ethical questions and fear factors, and am obstinate against too much technology that gets in the way of human to human direct interaction. Plus, recall I am a Luddite.

2. I don't have the toys

I walked in to the room, chatted with a few people, and selected a seat. I opened my big bag of everything and pulled out a note pad and pen. RED FLAG! This is a girl who doesn't know her sandstone from her limestone. All around me? People whipped out laptops, blackberries and iPhones. There may have been others. I don't know. Those are all halite to me.

People powered up their social media tools and charged into the 'Net, to chat with friends via messaging. In a room full of people. Now, to everyone's credit? There was incessant talking, lots of socializing, and tons of friendliness. I observed no lack of speaking skills, and no talking in IM acronyms. That's a problem apparently limited to teens and rocket scientists (and you NASA people know what I mean here, right? With your SK3 and R2-D2 talk.)

I didn't feel the need to stream, live blog, or instant message, but if I had, I might have been exceedingly frustrated. I don't have the toys or the tools. I have a desktop computer. And the Emergency Mom Phone that lives in the car, or that I carry with me if I am out so sitters can reach me.

If I'm honest, I don't want to be in touch all the time. I have a cave and I'm not afraid to use it.

3. I don't have the reason (that I know of) (although I thought/think I did)

It may have been the WHOOPS! factor (being in 102 instead of 101) but I never got a good idea of how to use social media appropriately as a tool.

I walked into the conference as a business person (versus a personal person) of limited budget. I can't afford big advertising and marketing budgets. I can't even really afford the small ones. I know you need to spend money to make money (market and advertise) but the bulk of my money (and bulk makes it sound like so, so much---which isn't the case) goes to actually creating the product and running the business. Like most people, I seek inexpensive ways to advertise and market, and social media sounded like a great idea. I was eager to hear about it, get ideas about good ways to use it, and learn how I could use it for my business.

Unfortunately, I think I was the Rare Exception in the room. I don't have a brick and mortar store, I don't have a marketing budget in the tens to hundreds of thousands, and I'm not already hip to what social media is or how to use it.

Each point made me want to say: "Wait, wait, how do you do that? How do I do that? Should I do that?" And most frequently, "Hold on, what is that and how and why do you use it?"

Most importantly, "How do you have the time?"

4. I don't have the time

Building a social media network sounds suspiciously extremely time-consuming, as does maintaining it. It sounds great, but I still don't get it or how I will be able to incorporate it into my business.

I spend a lot of time building business contacts, but I'm not sure they use social media. If they do, is that their personal space or their professional space?

Because I work from home, I try to be really sensitive about personal versus professional space. Those lines have gotten really blurry and confusing lately, and it's a challenge for us all. But I think boundaries are important, and we have to respect them, or there could be repercussions.

I have a struggle juggling work, self, family and kids. I think most people do. So who am I online, for example? This is primarily my space, personal space. My FaceBook contacts are mainly blogging contacts, although some real life people have begun seeping in. This makes me a little...edgy.

That's because there are mores for both corporeal and online life, and online is so new and evolving that these unwritten accepted practices are hard to pick up sometimes.

5. What are the mores, anyway?

I think every conversation about emerging technology should include a discussion of ethics. I was impressed that each speaker touched on this in his or her own way.

Social media proponents seem convinced that it's an appropriate venue, but I'm not sure that all users are so convinced. I've seen people annihilated online for breaking social media social codes, which are a big mystery as far as I'm concerned, because the rules don't seem consistent in expectation or application.

One attendee shared several stories about calls to action (e.g., donate money, buy this, Digg that) she received via Twitter and how she responded to all of them.

Amazed, I couldn't help but interrupt the presentation and ask incredulously, "You mean someone Twittered you to go do this and you...just did, just went and did it?"

She assured me she did nothing blindly, only took requests from people she trusted and only complied for things she believed in. (I waited for Ed Schipul to yell out AMEN! for this---since it made his point for him---but he was apparently better behaved than I and remained seated and silent.)

When I pondered the sheer volume of people, pieces of data and information, as well as calls to action---whether your network is 100 or more, especially if you have more than one network---I felt a little faint. People take in and sift through all of that?

No wonder book sales are down.

During his presentation, Giovanni Gallucci mentioned a network of over 16,000. (Stephen Anderson had earlier distinguished friends from followers, which was fascinating to ponder, particularly considering I don't think it's such a clear line in all minds and hearts. This may need to be an entire post on its own.)

Amazed, again, I couldn't help but interrupt, again, and ask incredulously, "You mean you send a message to 16,000 people to go vote on Digg for a blog post of yours and they just go do it?"

The guy behind me, big DUH tone said, "Not 100%, just 5 to 10% of the people do."

Still, that's a huge number, and will land you posthaste front page of Digg.

My big Digg experience outside of daily annoyance in Boston was the time I titled a blog post Penis. I got thousands of visitors daily for a week at least---I still get referral traffic a year later!---and only got maybe 30 something votes (I admit I don't was a year ago.) I was so freaked out. Luckily the awesome Vernon Lun helped me out, accessed all my stats and checked into it for me and explained everything.

It was a year ago, then, that I began to see the potential---good and bad---of social media, at least for me personally. And yet...have I altered my behavior at all in that time? Not really.

So what if you only have a network of 100? That's a lot of people in my mind to keep up an active connection with. And will only net you 10 votes?

Does that make it a useless network?

And why are you connected after all?

How do you make it okay with people that you are there to manipulate and use them for your own ends, even if you are transparent about your motives?

My ethics antennae were tweaking madly at that point.

Each speaker spoke compelling about the need to use social media in marketing, advertising and public relation endeavors. I was convinced, but still feel edgy about it. This is because I consider social media to largely be personal space, and it requires building connections and trust. To me, building those for business reasons feels dishonest, at least.

And that's what I would be doing it for.

Ed Schipul, who was a very dynamic and engaging speaker, spoke about this in his presentation about social media and nonprofits. He spoke about honesty and transparency. He addressed how long calls to action can be sustained, and hinted at techniques and timing to sustain it.

I saw easily how social media is an excellent venue for creative non-profit fundraising. It's a win-win.

He even motivated a few ideas for my Web site.

When Giovanni Gallucci spoke about buzz and guerilla marketing in social media, I saw how social media is a great channel for edgy and techie business.

But what about me, my work? Writing, editing and our book?

Stephen Anderson's presentation was extremely useful and engaging. He provided many questions to ask.

I just need to find the answers. And the money to hire someone like him for my Web site. (Although am I ever shy about that, having been twice bitten by designers who took my money and did not design the site. I'm pretty wary of Web designers these days. I'll reach out and step back, fearful of committing any more money. So, my Web site lingers, incomplete, most pages simply taken down, and those left up not to my satisfaction.)

Chris Bernard's
presentation about Web 3.0 was well-done and intriguing, what I got to see of it. I had to cut out to get the kids.

Steve Latham was completely over my head. ROI and something about the end of television, newspapers and magazines because all ad revenue is going online. Or maybe that's what I heard---frightened print person that I am---more than what he meant.

Kelsey Ruger was in my head. I mean that in a fascinating, not a creepy way, for the record.

I got quite a bit out of the conference, although not exactly the things I walked in hoping to learn.

At the end of the day, I still don't feel compelled to activate my Twitter account (or any others), probably because I'm still not sure how it is necessary or how I can use it. It sounds like a good thing, but I can barely keep up with all I've got going on right now.

Perhaps I need to take a step back.

Let me know when Social Media for Dummies comes up. I'll be there with my chert and obsidian bells on. I'll also buy Ed and Kelsey a coffee if they'll talk more to me about their topics.

(If you think I sound like a curmudgeon or Doubting speaker (can't recall who) had a slide flash up and away quickly, but it was touching on the failure points of social media and one bullet point was, "All these introverts." HELLO! How exciting to consider that a personality type could drag down an entire technological advance simply by doing...nothing. I feel very empowered. KIDDING! Introverts can have a sense of humor...and be friendly.)

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, January 24, 2008

27 Dresses: 27 laughs, one burn of the heart, a moral dilemma, and something about citrus drinks

Have you ever noticed that life tends to hand out lemons with the left hand and lemonade with the right hand?

The lemons...

Tuesday night, still reeling from the knowledge that our dog has cancer, I was laying in bed, my arms flung wide. You might imagine this was Drama Personified, but it wasn't. My lymph nodes were so swollen I couldn't put my arms down.

"Great," I snuffled nasally to my husband, because my sinuses were burning and my eyes were running, "Next it will be the thyroid, and then I'll go to this awesome social media conference on Thursday looking like a runaway boa that swallowed a Bocce ball."

He snorted at me in laughter, which was not the sympathy I was begging for, pitifully.

"It will move up to the pituitary and then we'll all be sorry," I said threateningly and vengefully.

He fast-forwarded through the American Idol auditions.

I sniffed.

He looked at me.

I sniffed again.

He sniffed.

We looked at each other.

And we flew out of the bed. Burning! Burning plastic! Our house was on fire. I checked the upstairs, kids' rooms first. He took the downstairs. We sniffed outlets, unplugged appliances, scoped out the attic. I searched corners, felt walls, he opened doors, touched floors. We spent an entire hour trying to find the fire.

You are thinking, why not call the fire department, you idiots?

Trust me, we said the same thing to ourselves, but with no smoke or any evidence we felt too stupid to do so. We'd spend a bit of time checking this or that, try to settle in to bed, then leap up, panicked again. I'd shake the carbon monoxide detector and he'd check the smoke detector.

All while trying hard not to wake the children.

10 p.m. I said, "My arm pits hurt," and my lovely husband looked at me like I had two heads, and climbed back up into the attic. I walked back to the master bedroom and picked up the phone and called my best friend in the neighborhood. Her husband answered.

"Hello, Julie," he said. I like to think everyone amuses him as much as it seems I do.

"Does your house smell like it's got a plastic fire?" I asked without hesitation or pleasantries.

"My what? What? Why would you ask that?" he said, much more calmly than you might imagine. But I'm sure I'm nothing compared to astronauts on the space phone with him saying things like, "Houston, large chunks of Vital Parts of the Shuttle just broke off during re-entry."

In the background his wife, my friend is calling out, "Is that Julie? Is that Julie? She's calling about the burning smell isn't she?!?"

I can hear him move the phone from his mouth and say, "The what?"

He pauses and listens, I hear her in the background. I can't make out much beyond, "Stinking AWFUL...sick as a dog...the CAR...!!"

He gets back on the phone, "Well you ladies with your Spidey sense of smell can apparently note the benzene levels in the air simply by sniffing. I'm to tell you that YES we smell that and it's STINKING AWFUL and she pulled the car off the road on the way home from church several times she was so convinced the car had to be on fire. So NO it's not your house, it's just the chemical plants to the north of us."

"Oh, okay, well that's a relief," I said, "No, wait, no it's NOT, not a relief AT ALL," I asserted.

We traded a few details, and I issued an abject apology for calling so late, he extended reassurances it was okay, and we hung in the knowledge that our homes weren't burning but the toxic plants north of us were emitting foul odors that did who knows what.

The smell was so dreadful even those of us used to the stench of the plants to the north panicked; my husband assumed some plant must have had a leak or blown up. And news stories to that effect.

Just a stench that made us ill, all night.

The lemonade...

Obviously, then, the thing to do Wednesday night is join my fab girl friends for a chick flick.

We went to see 27 Dresses, which was good...really beyond my expectations. It was at least 27 laughs---literally laughing out loud---especially during the Benny and the Jets scene at the bar.

All of us enjoyed the movie, overall. Especially because we were Out, which we relish the way a dog who finally finished digging a hole his size and escaped under the fence would.

There were some true tender moments in the movie, too. Good chemistry between the characters, as well.

It was an enjoyable evening with nice friends and a good movie. I was impressed because it was better written and acted than I expected. I recommend the film if it is the sort of thing you like.

But it did open up a slight moral dilemma. One character was a writer and wrote something that upset another character. It brought back up the question many of us have asked: are people we know fair fodder for writing? People in our real lives? People we know or read online? Other bloggers? Things we read, such as blog posts, emails, news stories, etc? Are other people and the things they do fair fodder for our blogs (or other writing)?

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, January 23, 2008

Hump Day Hmm January 23, 2008: Big Pink Elephant---The Most Important Cultural Issue

Today is Hump Day.

The topic is "January 23 --- Tell us about the most important cultural issue from your perspective. Is it something that ought to be emphasized more in politics? Is it a political issue? Why or why not? Does it affect how you vote?"

I got so busy with my spectacular pity party yesterday---and oh it was a bash, let me tell you; also, many thanks for all the support---I forgot to put up a reminder. I can only hope you are better organized than I am and took note when I announced the topics at the beginning of the month and in the past weeks.

Please remember you can create a new post for this, or can link to a post you already wrote at any time in the past.

As a heads-up, next week's topic is about a key/pivotol moment in your childhood or growing up years, why it was important, and how you carry it with you. You are welcome to suggest topic ideas any time.

I've added in my topic as a link (below) like the rest of you. Looking forward to all submissions.

My Big Pink Elephant for Hump Day: Money, Social Programs and The Generation Gap

We are all operating under some informational delusions, and they are affecting how we vote. We're letting the very people who have a personal agenda tell us what to think; that's called a conflict of interest and unreliable resource in my book. So let me clear up a few things and express my largest cultural concerns along the way:

* we're in an economic crisis and a stimulus package isn't going to fix it. Stimulus packages are for the short term, and we have a long-term problem ahead of us because the cost of living and big business interests are dangerously outpacing earnings. (Not to mention big business practices---such as those evil Adjustable Rate Mortgages---which benefit business at the expense of the people, economy and country at large. Banks, mortgage lenders, speculators and so forth who perpetuate this shouldn't just be ashamed, they should be fined and jailed. And politicians who enabled and supported it---including our President---should be ousted from office, and face similar penalties. Yes, I have NO MERCY for people who cost their citizens their HOMES.)

* cutting social programs doesn't lead to more money in your pocket. In fact, it worsens the economy on multiple levels, not to mention robs from the future. This is also why stimulus packages only work short-term. If you're wealthy with plenty of money in reserve, you are the minority. So close your mouth and open your ears for a minute. We can send out tax rebates but without appropriate social programs, that money won't go back into the economy (aka Business). People will use it for health care, utilities, groceries, etc. Essentials. Stimulus packages count on nonessential spending.

* the above two things keep happening because of a large voting block: the conservative Baby Boomers. They aren't as cool or rebellious as they (and we) think. They also don't outnumber us as much as we think. So let's take back the vote, folks, and prepare for tomorrow, instead of focusing so selfishly on ourselves today.

At the end of the day, all of my major issues boil down to one thing: money, and the distribution thereof.

At the end of my day, I figure absolutely none of it will come to me.

And that royally chaps my hide.

But it doesn't chap my hide half as much as watching my children robbed of a high-quality comprehensive education, seeing too many citizens struggling for the basics in increasing numbers, and knowing people lack the basic human right of proper health care.

This is the result of a conservative trend in American politics that began in the 1990s, courtesy of our big generation, the Baby Boom:
[America became] a somber land obsessed with values, back-to-basics movements, ethical rectitude, political correctness, harsh punishments, and a yearning for the simple life.

With a huge fear---and media and politician inspired panic---about the burden the Baby Boomers will put on our social program infrastructure, people have begun voting even more conservatively to cut back even more of these programs, erroneously thinking we can't possibly support or afford them and rationalizing this action by falling back on the out-of-date "if you want it, you have to earn it yourself" philosophy of government.

Invariably this leads to voting patterns that are individually focused instead of culturally focused. We end up cutting essential, nation-building programs such as SCHIP.

Furthermore, it puts the focus on Baby Boomers and misses the subsequent generations and their needs. There was a Baby Boom. Hordes of people. They ruled the nation and consumed the majority of resources through sheer volume. However, that day has hit its end.

My generation isn't as small as you might think.

Depending upon who you listen to and whether you believe my generation begins in 1960 or 1965, we number somewhere between 50 and 80 million (equivalent to the Baby Boom).
The early-sixties birth cohorts are among the biggest in U.S. history -- and, at 80 million, this generation has numerically outgrown the Boom. By the late 1990s it will even outvote the Boom.
---Source: The Atlantic, "The New Generation Gap," by Neil Howe and William Strauss


Consider these US Department of Health and Human Services projections that breakdown population by age groups. Imagine a person was born in 1970. Look at the disparity in 1998, and notice how the gap narrows in 2009:

Figure 4.1. U.S. Population by Age

Figure 4.2. Percent Change in U.S. Population by Age, 1998-2009

At some point we became a nation so obsessed with the here and now that we have forgotten the future. if a few people raise their hands and start asking about the future and down the road, they are smilingly assured by leaders that there is no future problem; they either allege the problem isn't real (global warming) or assert that short-term fixes are all that is needed (recession). This whitewash applies to almost every issue you can think of.

We need to consider that cutting education will long-term prevent our ability to adequately and competitively contribute to the global market. We need to consider that social programs enable better growth and development because the citizens are housed, fed, healthy and better able to contribute to the country. We need to consider that losing the last Boomer won't enable us to sigh in social relief; Generations X and Y are also large and have similar needs long-term, and have even less access to retirement programs and employment benefits because so much of business has moved away from benefits and long-term employment and has shifted to term, contract and freelance work to avoid paying out benefits or providing retirement programs.

It's not going away folks.

Don't let the conservative Boomers lead the way. Break free.

Vote for the future. This includes Green business and practices---including a more constructive and positive approach such as incentives rather than punitive fines for noncompliers (which clearly is a failure); sustainable development and investment (support for mom and pop business instead of such breaks for large chains); long-term economic planning; a focus on citizenry and their needs rather than big business and their wants; and a reprioritization of education and social welfare programs.

This is an extremely political issue, and it is why I have recently decided to back John Edwards. This was a hard come by decision; the other two Democrats offer much but also lack much.

However, more importantly, it is our issue, yours, mine and our children's. Let's vote in a way that creates a better country not just for us---here, now, today---but leaves behind us a place and time better than when we arrived.

Some interesting reading...

Daily Kos: Some Baby Boomers - The Worst Generation by davefromqueens

Attention Baby Boomers, Hollywood Execs and DC Insiders… by Future Majority Editors and Contributors

PBS: The Generation Gap (essays and polls of information) The generation gap at work---What's wrong with these kids today? Nothing. You have more in common with younger workers than you think. (I SERIOUSLY disagree that Gen X has not had to fight hard for work and has never known job scarcity. I don't know if the author was snoozing through the major recession of the early 90s but the economy and job market tanked then and my generation was hosed. The difference is we probably in general didn't have as many financial obligations, such as kids and mortgages, yet.)

Economics Journalist Robert Kuttner on the “Most Serious Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression”: “This is the Result of Rightwing Ideology and the Political Power of Wall Street”

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, January 22, 2008

It's cancer


This is a common form of colorectal cancer.
From Definition of Adenocarcinoma

Let's break it down. "Adeno-" is a prefix that means "gland." In general, glands secrete things and are classified as endocrine or exocrine. Endocrine glands secrete things into the bloodstream, like hormones. Exocrine glands secrete things that go outside of the body, like mucus and sweat.

A carcinoma is a malignant tumor that starts in epithelial tissue.

Put the two words together and you get "adenocarcinoma," which means a malignant tumor in epithelial tissue, specifically in a gland.
Cause of Adenocarcinoma

Virtually all adenocarcinomas develop from adenomas. In general, the bigger the adenoma, the more likely it is to become cancerous. For example, polyps larger than two centimeters (about the diameter of a nickel) have a 30-50 percent chance of being cancerous. You can learn more about polyp size and colon cancer risk by viewing the Polyp Size Gallery.

By the time colorectal cancer is diagnosed, it has often been growing for several years, first as a non-cancerous polyp (adenoma) and later as cancer. Research indicates that by age 50, one in four people has polyps.

We had thought it was a polyp. We had hoped. The surgeon was surprised by the contents he withdrew with the biopsy needle, and called for the oncologist to come have a look---he was also surprised. They'd never seen anything like it. I'm not sure what well-differentiated means but I understand malignant and aggressive and atypical and hard to treat and high incidence of recurrence.

The cytology report thought it was an epithelial cell tumor, but the lab was also a little baffled by the make-up of the sample. However, they were fairly certain it was cancerous. The histopathology was definite about it being an adenocarcinoma.

Once again our surgeon was very kind and even a little optimistic, but I could tell it was his attempt to be nice and not suck all the hope out of our universe.

Upon researching this, one online vet seemed to confirm what our surgeon said about being "guarded" (the word the surgeon used). That vet said surgery is the best treatment and there is no proof that radiation or chemotherapy will help.
When the entire tumor is removed and there is no evidence of metastasis to surrounding lymph nodes or organs at the time of surgery the prognosis is still guarded, meaning that recurrence of the tumor is likely even in this case. The average life expectancy post surgery for this type of tumor is probably only six months to a year, but patients do seem to be comfortable most of that time, at least in the very small number of cases in which we have diagnosed this problem and attempted surgery. I found a couple of anecdotal reports in which remission periods
of longer than a year were reported, though.

Mike Richards, DVM

We aren't giving up. Our dog otherwise seems healthy and exhibits none of the symptoms that usually drive people to get their dogs checked. We found it by coincidence. I was worried about his anal sac and my vet is excellent and we persisted until we figured out why that one day he had one odd episode that made me think something was wrong with his anal sac. I have learned not to take, "don't find anything here, so it must all be okay" as an answer, learned it the hard way.

(But oh my gosh. Guarded. What a word. Loaded. Fallible. Improbable.)

So we will meet with the oncologist next week. The surgery site ought to be healed enough by then for an examination.

Our hearts and backs feel broken just now.

And it doesn't matter how many times or how many people tell us this is not our fault, right now it seems like we will probably always wonder what might have been (or not have been) if we had not moved here.

So once again, I plead for understanding of my absence.

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, January 21, 2008

This (white) American Life, Part II...with the actual podcast

In my first post of the day, I endeavored to recreate a broadcast from This American Life from an old memory. I'd tried to find it through various searches but was unsuccessful. And so i wrote what I recalled, which was the gist, if not exact.

However, luckily SciFi Dad is a better searcher than I am and he found the exact piece I meant. Thanks!

Please, have a's an amazing story. A thousand times more powerful than what I tried to recreate.

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.

This (white) American Life

Added Forenote: The kids are home (and slightly near a cold sick), the dog is home (and extremely sorry for himself) and all are (can you believe?!) demanding my attention...they have a zero tolerance policy for Mom Blogging. I know. It's always the ultimatum: you at computer reading and commenting on blogs, Mom, and we ruin the house and create chaos OR you mind us and do the mom job. So, long rationalization short...I am trying to preserve order and peace at home, which means little to no time for blog commenting. I will try to catch up on reading, and hopefully you'll see I was there reading at least (you know, if you have one of those nifty little Visitors things). Sorry. Soon...I promise; I'll be back with my comments, which I arrogantly assume are of importance to you. ;)

Kaliroz can tell you I am a huge Ira Glass fan and she's right: I am. I love the ordinary, and anyone who can take these things that happen to us all and make them interesting and relatable through the voice of a few regular people is a genius.

Although I can't get most of my favorite shows where I live now, one station does play This American Life, at the conveniently inconvenient time of school pick-up time. This means I have just enough time to get engaged in the story but not enough to hear the end. Oh to have Tivo for radio.

I have at times opted to sit in the car to hear the rest of the story. It reminds me of the time my husband and I drove to Hingham for a baby shower, and sat outside in the car to listen to the end of a piece Ira Glass was doing...and we weren't the only ones. When we went inside, the story was a major topic of conversation.

It was about Martin Luther King, Jr. And Jesus.

We all admitted, men and women alike, that the story socked us in the gut and made us choke up.

I hope to relate the story the best I can from seven year old memory, because I can't find a copy of it online. But consider this a dramatic reinterpretation of the story, rather than literal and exact.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr. day, like today, which of course means important things we depend upon are closed, such as school and pre-school. It's easy to consider this an annoying disruption to the schedule, but this father decided to make it a fun, learning time with his son.

As they drove to their destination, his son noticed things closed that were normally open, and special events. He asked his father about it.

"It's Martin Luther King, Jr. day, so it's a holiday and many things are closed, like your school," the father said.

"Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?" asked the boy.

"He was a man who looked around him and decided he didn't like what he saw. He saw people treating other people badly, as if they weren't worth treating well, just because of the color of their skin," the dad tried to explain.

"What was wrong with the color of their skin?" asked the boy.

"It was black, and for a long time, some people thought it was okay to be mean and treat people badly just because they had black skin. But it wasn't just black people who were treated badly; it was anyone who didn't have white skin."

"Why did they think white skin was better?"

"That's what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked," said the father, "And he decided there was no good reason, so it was time for everyone to be nice to one another. But some people didn't like that he thought this way. They didn't like that he gave speeches to lots of people and got them thinking that people needed to be nice to one another, too. Some people liked things the way they were, and didn't want changes, especially the kind Dr. King was calling for. Also, they were scared, because Dr. King had a lot of people who agreed with him. So they decided Dr. King was dangerous, and they tried hard to get him to stop talking."

The boy was silent for a bit, probably processing. But then he asked, "What happened to Dr. King, and why do we celebrate a day for him?"

The father paused, and considered. How do you explain something like this to a young child? How much do you say or not say?

When he finally answered, he explained about courage, and courage of convictions. He tried to tell his child that some people believe certain ideas and beliefs are so important, so right, that they will take risks to make changes.

"In the end," the father said carefully, "The risk he took was his life. And he was killed, because some people thought killing the man killed the idea. So now we celebrate Dr. King and all that he did to make us better people and this a better country."

The boy was quiet again, and the father wondered if his son understood what he'd said, worried whether he'd said it right.

After a pause, the boy said, "Kind of like Jesus."

And the father agreed, "Yeah, like Jesus."

Note: This post pulls a bit from last year's. Last year the challenge was to recognize other black heroes. The idea was to recognize other leaders.

How about if today's challenge is to recognize the ordinary people who made a positive difference in each of our lives? In honor of Ira, the average joe, and Dr. King.

UPDATE! SciFi Dad found the broadcast, so I included a link in Part II of this post. Please, if you've time, go have a listen. It's incredible, the story.

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, January 20, 2008


We stood in the small exam room at the veterinary surgeon's office Friday morning as he explained the procedure he and our regular vet believed was the best course of action for our dog.

I tried not to wince because the concept of how he does the surgery made me cringe inside, in empathy. It sounded a lot like how childbirth hurts during and after, only without the balm of the baby.

The surgeon was a young, interesting man. Apparently our questions and perspectives were extremely revealing about the sort of people we are. He was intrigued, and shared how he and his wife believed similarly to us. We mentioned a change in lifestyle---which is either an understatement or euphemism, depending upon how you look at it---for us and the dog when we moved here.

"We do a lot less outdoors now. Before we moved, we hiked, walked the beach, took trips to the mountains...just so much activity, pretty much every day, some sort of activity," we told him, "But here, not so much. We just don't seem to get out as much."

"I know what you mean," the surgeon said, the first bit of non-judgment and sympathy we've received from a doctor sort, "Who wants to go outside when it's 200 degrees? Not much motivation for it, either."

"Yes, that's it!" my husband said, glad, finally, for some understanding, "At our old place we had miles and miles of woods directly behind our house. We could walk all the way to Gloucester, if we wanted. Or just walk down to the beach, socialize a bit, let the dog swim."

"We've kind of given up on the swimming here," I explained, "The dog seems to get sick or have an allergic reaction most of the time."

"Anyway, it's all led to being more couch potato-y than we used to be," my husband said, "Which is how the dog has ended up with the weight problem."

"Where'd you move from?" he asked.

"Massachusetts, north shore, up past Boston," we said.

"Boston!" he exclaimed, "My wife is from there, that's where we met, BU. I'm a New Yorker of course."

We smiled and nodded at one another. If you have lived elsewhere, there is a sort of camaraderie of difference. He knew we understood the language of the north, which is substantially different than the more coy language of the south. I relaxed too: no need to adopt the apologetic woman; I could speak plainly as myself.

We verbally strolled through the surgery, tissue sampling, testing, post-surgical tests and care. As the consultation wound down, he asked if we had any other questions. My husband and I looked at one another. We had the most pressing question of all, however moot it might be: cost.

The surgeon named a cost that seemed fair and reasonable. But I said, "Oh no," with some distress, before I could stop myself, "The same cost as the kitchen cabinets."

He was kind and sensitive and talked with us about how to control costs and choices to keep things less expensive, all without making us feel like we lost face. I wondered what it must be like to easily afford the daily costs, without difficult choices or sacrifices. There are people with that much money, with more money than is necessary. People who spend half a million dollars on a party, who think nothing of dropping $1000.00 on a meal. People who spend money without feeling at least a little sick about it. People who can afford what they need, and at least a fair amount of what they want. We pinch down to the penny, and when problems arise, as they do frequently in life, the "wants" get cut. We have been cutting a lot of wants for a while, now. This time, it is repairing and refinishing the kitchen cabinets, something we've wanted since we bought this house.

I shook off my pity party and resumed paying attention to the surgeon. As he concluded, we transferred the leash to him and handed over our dog to his care. It should have been harder to do, I thought, just a bit, at least. But the surgeon was the sort of person my instincts trusted and felt good about.

My husband and I parted in the parking lot, the day cold and wet, gray ominous sky overhead, as it has been all week. I went to run errands and before I knew it, it was time to get the kids, which was just a bit before the surgeon promised to call with the surgery update.

There were complications during the surgery, and the two procedures ended up being more challenging than anyone had been expecting. They'd had to change tactics during the procedure and there was a bleeding incident. However, our dog came through fine. Now it is the waiting game: malignant or not?

In the evening we went to join some friends for casual socializing. They moved here from England. As we had that morning with the surgeon, we talked about what brought us here, and how we felt about being here.

The thing about being here is that it's a bit of a flytrap: we all agree it is clearly idyllic---it's a good life. Our surgeon had pointed out that salaries were higher in Texas than in the Northeast, and cost of living was less. He said, "But you have to wonder about know there must be a reason," and he looked significantly at us. We knew exactly what he meant. So did our friends.

"It's like something off the television, here," our friends said, "You can't beat the life. Nice houses, cheap, lots of work, friendly neighbors, coast just up the way, great for the kids. Our children love it here."

We agreed. "His whole family is local," I said, pointing to my husband, "And the kids really enjoy having family nearby. We benefit, too," I admitted.

We shared concern about the pollution, and how we felt our town is a bit of an anomaly in the area, a sort of oasis ringed by ugliness and pollution.

"It's fine if you are just doing things in the neighborhood, but it's when you want to take a day trip and go somewhere interesting or beautiful....that's when it hits you that there just isn't anything good around us. I took England for granted my entire life," our male friend said, "There was so much beauty and culture. I could take the kids to any number of places that had huge significance, or to a spot that was gorgeous, take your breath away, and have a hike."

"I've heard it's awfully tribal there," I said, wondering how it was for his wife, who was American.

She leapt in, "Oh it is. Two years, at least, to be close to being any part."

"But you were there where your husband was from, wasn't that any sort of help?"

They looked at one another and she said, "I'm The American."

I turned the conversation funny, relating my story/joke about being nicknamed Scottie in Provence, because apparently I fit the southern France stereotype of a Scottish woman.

But later, we went back to it. It was stunning to hear them talk about here versus there, where to go, when to go, and a sort of bittersweet indecision---because it so mirrored how we feel. In an area, no a life, full of people who seem so settled into place, it was a relief to know we're not alone and others do know how it feels to want the life here, but the place back there.

The next morning, bright and early, we drove back to the surgery center to get our dog. He was groggy, weak, but clearly glad to see us. The surgeon repeated his post-surgical instructions, and we loaded the family into the car to head home.

The interesting thing is, when we walked in to the surgery center, the day was stubbornly thick gray overcast. Fifteen minutes later, when we walked out, we could have tripped on the sunshine. The sky was azure and cloudless and the sudden light, missing for a week, hurt our eyes. We froze, stunned. But then we all smiled.

"Look Mama," Persistence said, "'S bright! So bright! 'S sun came out!"

We went home, lighter and brighter ourselves.

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, January 18, 2008

If I could just recall how to float. . .

Life is a study in discord, chaos and catastrophe right now. I have developed a habit of breaking things down, one by one, in my mind so that they don't seem overwhelming to my head. I have not mastered this skill for my heart.

My heart murmurs quietly inside my chest, its demure speechlessness no match for the big voice of my mind. It's so easy to listen to directive and solid words, thought out loud or stuck inside to rattle around my skull. It's harder to stop and let the heart have its say, simply feel.

I find myself flailing, crying out in a childish and needy voice, "Hear me, HEAR ME, I am lost in this mess, but it is my job to guide everyone out and clear it up."

Except I do not use such precise and clear language.

Instead, like my children, I focus on the minute and concrete, "What a mess! We need to tidy up the playroom!" "Who left these shoes in the center of the hall? They need to be in the shoe shelf!" "Markers and crayons need to be cleared up!" "Oh no, not another event to go to, can we ever have a down day?" "I can't just now, I have to wash the dishes and then put the laundry in the dryer. But next, just as soon as I am done..."

And by redirecting attention to things, it is off of me, and people miss my cry and hear only the sound of my nagging.

I am so anxious that if I am not careful, if I leave one thread untended, it will all fall apart.

Things, you know, do fall apart. But it is not really the things that worry me. It is the people.

We have lost our things before. Someone else's selfishness and carelessness lost and ruined our things, and three years ago we had a fresh start. There is very little in our house, now, that we had before. Clothes, photos, toys, much gone. We fought for too long for replacement value of these things. When the check arrived, it was sweet relief; we could let the things go. Except every now and again, my mind will think, "Oh yes, let's go get the such and so, that will be useful now..." But it is gone, now. We had a cold snap the other night and I ran to the chest of drawers to get fleecy footie PJs for Peristence. We had scores of them for Patience. Except there were none. I began to search, checking storage tubs and labeled boxes in the attic, to no avail. I had forgotten, for a minute, that most year three things of Patience's were lost, now. And by lost I really mean no longer in existence.

The most painful loss are the videotapes. No more baby Patience, no more baby Persistence in action. I console myself with the knowledge that family members took video, except it wasn't spontaneous day-to-day, at our home. But it's enough. It's something.

My father-in-law picked through family photo albums and meticulously replaced the photos we had in frames around our house. Such a thoughtful and time-consuming gesture was extremely kind for his practical, scientific fact-based self.

In the end, we told ourselves, it's not the biggest loss possible; they're only things. In time, we believed this, we knew it to be true---after the first ache of remembering each lost thing subsided.

Now I look around and we are flush in things, again...too many, in a way. Knowing their vulnerability, I tend carefully to these things. Anyway, they are much easier to tend than people, especially when people are complicated.

I don't want to run away; I just want a pause button so I can stop things, rewind them, look at them more carefully, pause again and think, then push slow so things can play out at a speed I can manage right now.

Thursday evening at a dinner, Patience and Persistence danced in a cafeteria that was decked out like an Italian cafe. Frank Sinatra blared from large speakers, and Persistence had shoveled her food down quickly to leave more time and space for fun. Before she'd even swallowed her final bite, she shouted, "Let's dance! I need to dance!" We all moved to the front, by the music, and they clasped hands and did a swing and bop and ring-around-the-rosy. Patience taught Persistence how to spin and twirl while holding hands, and we laughed, the children grinning from the fun, pride, and attention.

Fun is as infectious as anything else, and it wasn't long before a trio of little girls came to do the same beside them. The other little girls got more rambunctious and began singing little songs as they spun. Patience and Persistence paused in their dance, and turned to watch, their joined hands left together, forgotten in their partnership. The tallest of the little girls, dark hair pulled back by a band and then down into a ponytail, leaned in to the circle and whispered to the other little girls. Three heads swung to look at my daughters, and I tensed.

The trio--all in a line, hands still together, but the circle open---walked to my girls, and the middle sized one, hair bobbed short and bouncy, a ribbon tied at the waist of her jean Capris, said, "Would you like to come dance with us, too?"

Persistence immediately smiled, but Patience froze. Persistence reached out a hand and just before the smallest girl took it, Patience yanked her away, and quickly turned her back to the trio. She looked at me and her father, her face locked in longing and fear. Unable to reach past her shyness and accept the invitation, she could not bear to see it before her.

Persistence peered over her shoulder to look at the girls one more time, then slowly turned back around, her allegiance unswervingly to her sister.

The trio stood still, each girl as surprised as the other. Confusion, shock, and indecision flickered across their faces. I wanted six arms to reach out to each girl and pat her reassuringly. But like Persistence, my allegiance belonged to my girl.

And just for a moment, as I wished, time seemed to hover, suspended between seconds. With my brain silenced in bewilderment and dismay, my heart seized its chance, took the opening, and a flood of feeling shook through me: empathy, sadness, worry, concern, disappointment, annoyance. I had forgotten that a feeling can be worth a thousand words. I was captivated by the power of emotion, more so than words can ever do. My heart had its say, and when the shockwave subsided, I felt wiped out.

I smiled ruefully at the trio, and shrugged. In unison, her father and I told Patience it was okay to go dance with the girls. Hearing this, they paused, their offer still open, and waited. Asking permission, she's asking permission, that's all, I could hear their relieved minds sighing, grateful for a reason they could comprehend---even if it was in error.

Patience, distressed, shook her head no, her back still to the girls. We said, "Please, be kind and say no thank you." But she shook her head again. Perplexed we sat silent, our brains racing.

Not asking permission, rejecting, I saw them each comprehend, in turn. The confusion returned to their faces.

The middle girl let it roll off her back, and said, "Come on, let's go dance!" She smiled, no hard feelings I think, and they resumed their fun.

Patience stared hard at my face and I couldn't hide my dismay. She saw that only, and didn't understand it was concern, worry, and love, too.

I looked at my husband, our family of four, together, alone, and I said, "It's time to go."

As we shuffled out, down the long school hallway, we paused by the Good Citizen wall so Patience could point out her friends who had won the award. Each child stared out of the photo, the typical young child grimace grin adorning each face, a certificate with a shiny gold edge clutched barely below each chin. She asked me to read the reason why each got the award.

"Always kind to others," I read, "Helpful and good-natured."

I moved to another, "Friendly, always includes others in her work and play. Reliable, will always help."

Patience and I stood there together, quietly, each thinking, I think, that right now she is not somebody's idea of a good citizen. I could think of nothing to say, so I took her hand, pulled her close to me, and we walked out together.

My mind and heart fought equally strongly for airspace: my mind shouted questions, shoulds, shouldn'ts; my heart surged need, pain, and want. I thought about walking home from school the other day, a six year old girl on either side of me, each chattering away without pause. I caught nothing of what either said, and only nodded and hmm'd when it seemed they needed confirmation I was there. In this time and place, inside myself, with so much noise, I could only feel the need, the desire to fix this, to do do the right thing. A simple hmm or nod would not do. My heart won, but on its own, it is simply raw emotion---a panicked deer running with no plan or direction. I needed my thoughts. But they had shrugged and smiled ruefully at me, in mild mockery of myself. They sat as silent as I had.

As we left, my mind kicked in, running through all that I had to do at home. Worst of all, I realized I have to tell the kids about the dog. He is going in for surgery Friday, depending on whether he gets the clear from the surgeon.

On my last day of children in school before a half week next week, I will be unable to work. Instead, my dog and I will go see the surgeon. I will hope it is simply a mass, nothing malignant. I have to stop thinking of it as an omen. It is a tumor. In my dog. I am the supporting cast in this show.

The kids will want specifics. If I had illustrations, they'd want to see the step by step guide of how the surgery goes. They need reassurances that all will be okay, but I quit believing in that a long time ago. I can't promise it; it is hollow and false and against my principles, now.

There is no preparation against bad things, including pretending they are not possible. The key, I think, is to know you can stand them.

So you focus on the hope, the wish for a good outcome, while not uttering false hope or covering up the possibility of a problem

"It's a common operation, and it should be just fine. I'll be there. He'll be with me, I'll take care of him," I reassured, and they believed me utterly. I exist to take care, in their minds. "And remember, we're a family, okay," I reminded them, as they hung over the dog, petting him, hugging him.

Each wanted a pass out of school to come with me to the surgery center, and I couldn't say that they couldn't come because they would be unable to set their needs aside during a time when my attention would need to be focused elsewhere, or nowhere. So I mentioned the good things at school, the fun they can have, and how by the time they come home, we should be home and it will be behind us, hopefully. They accepted it, but probably simply because their pre-bedtime fatigue stole the fight from them.

Patience read the bedtime book to us. After the school test that measured her reading skill level, her gig is up: she not only can read, but she can read well (and probably has been able to for quite a while). The book finished, two tired girls shuffled to bed, then a worn out mom and dad endeavored to unwind and process.

And hopefully, by morning, we will all recall how to float.

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.