Friday, February 29, 2008

I've been called many names; "Hussein" would be the least of it

Several days ago, Liz at Mom-101 wrote Political Death by Middle Name? for MOMocrats. In that article, she informed us that some conservative right wing talk show guy had decided a good political tactic was to employ the George Bush Manufacture Fact By Proximity and Repetition technique to link Barack Obama to terrorism. How? Because he happens to be named after his father, which means his middle name is Hussein. That's right: Hussein.

It's a name. That's all.

Not everybody named Wayne is a serial killer, and not everybody named Bush is...well, best to not hoist myself on my own petard here.

I read Liz's informative article, made a mental note, was annoyed, but thought, well, that's just too stupid to go anywhere.

I underestimated the mental immaturity and reckless irresponsibility of some right wing talking heads. I overestimated people's sense of honor, mistakenly assuming that all of us have this interior gauge that prevents us from going too low. I overestimated places that call themselves news stations.

On Wednesday night, while waiting for my husband to wean himself off of his obsessive political watching so we could tune in to American Idol, I caught Sean Hannity, Bill Cunningham and Alan Colmes on the TV talking about Obama, no talking about his middle name.

Seriously, this is considered newsworthy? Some asshat in Ohio pulls a schoolyard stunt and makes fun of a presidential candidate's name and so-called news stations needs to allow time to discuss it?

Dude, didn't anyone ever tell you the best way to get rid of a bully and his taunts is to ignore him?

But they didn't.

Instead, major networks spread Cunningham's message. All righty then. Let's talk about it. Let's get the issue on the table and talk it into the nothing that it is.

So, I wrote, "Sing it with me: This is the way we attack Barack, attack Barack, attack Barack..." for MOMocrats.

People went from eye-rolling when it was simply some guy on a talk show to "nuklar" now that it was a nationwide scam.

John McCain shunned Bill Cunningham, and apologized to Obama. Cunningham leapt into bed with Ann Coulter (and that ought to tell you a lot) and declared for Hillary Clinton, who probably got no sleep that night whatsoever as she tried to think of a way to renounce, denounce, reject or ignore her new backers. (Yes, that was a debate reference from the other night, and yes, my friend Sarah Slouching, I did in fact nerd out in that moment.)

And the MOMocrats started a meme.

If you think using this tactic to smear Obama is way too low, way too ridiculous, and want to help water it down, join in the meme.

The "Just Call Me Hussein" meme is about names, and our own personal experience with them. Participation brings: blog fodder, a button and a MOMocrats link.

Here's how:

1. Click here to read all the instructions in detail and see links to people who already participated.

2. Post your "Hussein name" in the title of your blog.

3. Share a story about how someone tried to make you feel bad about your name.

4. When you post, be sure to link MOMocrats at so we can find you. You can also comment on the meme post at MOMocrats and even may include a link. We're groovy with that.

And if you want a bit of a laugh at my expense, my own little nickname embarrassment, you can check out, "Benny, when you call me, you can call me Hussein."

button 1

button 2

Let's take the high road, let's be louder than the culture of fear and anxiety, let's pull the plug on this.

Note: Speaking of memes, I know Jenn, Mimi, and a few other people (sorry, foggy headed this coffee, and am getting husband's sickness...he's generous at sharing that way) tagged me for memes that I want to do. I have a list. No I swear, I do. I know what I'm supposed to do. I'd intended to do it today but *got derailed by idiocy.* Maybe it will be my fun fluff for the weekend. And you guys rocked yesterday, thanks. :)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 28, 2008

Blogger lost grip in jaws of life

Little known blogger Julie Pippert was swamped by a big wave of life yesterday. When she surfaced---thanks to swimming help by her Labrador retriever---she noticed she was missing a veterinary appointment, two return phone calls, more than half the blogs in her feed reader (count now well over 100), a multitude of email and a promised blog post.

"I think it just sank to the bottom of this vast sea," she said sadly and resignedly, beginning to hum, "My Heart Will Go On," the popular Celine Dion song from the movie Titanic.

The wave, which Ms. Pippert refers to as a mini tsunami, began with over-reaching expectations and overcommitment. "I think a lot of people get sucked under the tide of plans and goals," she said, "Some never come back up. I'm just glad I resurfaced. I'm going to seize this second chance and scale back."

Her scaling back process began yesterday afternoon when, instead of reading the accumulated blog posts in her feed reader, she sat and played a game of Battle At Sea with two six year olds. It continued yesterday evening when she watched American Idol instead of writing a blog post, reading blog posts, replying to emails, or working on any of her articles or stories.

"I know I'm letting some people down, or taking without giving, but I guess fair is a place for ferris wheels, not a state of being," she said, "I want to keep up with everything and everyone but, well, I'm only one person and I guess I have to be realistic. I hope everyone knows I care and am sorry I'm not there right now."

Ms. Pippert plans to spend today having lunch with her daughter at school, attending a meeting, and catching up with laundry, which she refers to as the Multi-colored Menace, and fears its evil intentions with regard to overtaking the house.

"When the laundry gets this out of control I start having nightmares about being attacked by slithering socks wrapping their cottony selves all around me, crushing me. I think I saw that in a movie once, but in the movie it might have been snakes."

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 27, 2008

Assertive is my albatross...Hump Day Hmm for 2-27-2008

She herself was not she quickly recognized the futility of attempting to alter the course of unalterable events. Enduring what couldn't be cured, she supposed, was what people meant by being adult, though it was ironic that so few of them---including her parents---had mastered the skill themselves. By age twelve she'd already learned to cut her losses and derive what comfort she could from doing so. Generally she was happy or, failing that, reasonably content, though she sometimes wondered if she'd conceded the inevitable too quickly. What if the only thing concessions got you was the habit of conceding?

"All and Sundry," from Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (p.324) (if you aren't reading this book, you should)

Marie A. Sherrett, past president of the Prince George's County, MD, chapter of the Autism Society of America, in her article, "Assertiveness and Effective Parent Advocacy," wrote that parents of special needs kids came in several categories:

* Pacifists or those who gets things done;

* Clinging vines or parent advocates;

* Silent victims or fighters;

* Dreamers or crusaders;

* Waiters or initiators;

* Bombshells or assertive parents;

* Appeasing compromisers or action heroes.

"Which are you?" she asked.

The second descriptor after each or, by the way, is the assertive parent, which is the best advocate, according to Sherrett.

I can be any of the first descriptors, but in general I think I tend to err on the side of assertive. What is assertive? I'll tell you what it isn't, also from Sherrett's article:

* Beat around the bush;
* Fail to describe problems;
* Feel guilty or are afraid to be vocal;
* Agree with professionals to keep peace;
* Leave everything to others;
* Accept excuses for inappropriate or inadequate services;
* Are too hasty to act;
* Fail to act;
* Accept the status quo;
* Give in to defeat;
* Are uncomfortable with accomplishments;
* Discourage your child from having hope of success.

These are often humps I have to get over, but constitutionally I am incapable of sitting down and being quiet when I fundamentally believe that is the wrong thing to do.

Like the little girl with the soccer ball I described in my post on Monday, this earns me mixed reviews. It makes me noticeable, and outside the status quo. It leads to backhanded compliments, that seem admiring on the surface but carry a nasty undertone at times. It often creates an embattled feeling.

Still, I can't stop. I have never been one for sitting back and waiting.

On Monday, BubandPie wrote in "1983," "I'm finding a certain pleasure in remembering that old ache of boredom, the helpless longing I felt as I slumped on plastic chairs at many a grade-seven lunchtime dance, hoping for life to find me."

I read that description several times, and read with great interest the comments, all of which seemed to completely identify with that feeling. Except I couldn't. I'd never slumped in a plastic chair and waited for life to find me. I'd always felt a bit of a wildness, a motivation. And when others laughingly expressed how relieved they were to have "grown out" of that crazy energy, again I was stymied. I never have.

I wasn't bored at 12. I was flying to visit my best friend in another state, and traipsing through Paris. I wasn't bored at 13, or 14 either, when I wandered the streets of San Francisco. I wasn't bored at 15 when I worked all year long to earn enough money to backpack through Europe with friends. At senior prom I asked my date to dance when a favorite song of mine came on. "No, I'm tired," he said, and I shrugged and went and danced all by myself. If it matters to me, I'll go and do it, solo doesn't impede me.

The more apt description of how I felt at 12 is this:
...and the teacher, Mr. Karp, puts us upon the stage with our legs around everybody, one in back of the other, and he says: 'Okay, we're gonna do improvisations...Now, you're on a bobsled and it's snowing out and it's cold... Okay, go!'
Ev'ryday for a week we would try to feel the motion,
Feel the motion down the hill.
Ev'ry day for a week we would try to hear the wind rush
Hear the wind rush, feel the chill
And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside.
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried!
And everybody's goin' 'Woosh... woosh ...
I feel the snow, I feel the cold,
I feel the air...'
And Mr. Karp turns to me and he says:
'Okay, Morales, what did you feel?'
And I said...
'Nothing, I'm feeling nothing,'
And he says 'Nothing could get a girl transferred.'
They all felt something,
But I felt nothing
Except the feelin' that this bullshit was absurd!
"Nothing," from A Chorus Line, sung by the character Morales

That's pretty much how I sometimes feel at nearly 40, too, at times. And like at 12, and like Morales, it works for me
And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul
Came up to the top of my head,
And a voice from down at the bottom of my soul,
Here is what it said,
'This man is nothing! This course is nothing!
If you want something go find a better class.
And when you find one You'll be an actress.'
And I assure you that's what fin'lly came to pass

I try, often, to fit into the round hole. It's not easy being the Billy Bevel of Polieville. But that's not the point. I also don't think everything is absurd or nothing. That's also not the point.

The point is, unlike Russo's character Sarah, I don't cut my losses at the beginning. I do believe that all constant concessions gain is a habit of conceding.

I asked my mother---the source of all things original to me---if this is an apt description.

"Oh yes," she reassured me, reminding me that she had at least one teacher called conference about me for each year of school.

But I do try for wisdom and diplomacy, and that is perhaps the greatest difference between 12 and 40. I try for a generous dollop of humble with my assertiveness, and I hope I manage it.

Assertiveness with humility is a trait of getting the most from life, but people tolerate it in different ways from men and women. The tolerance extends further in men, and runs out more quickly for women, although both run a risk---especially since it varies more by personality than anything else.

I want the most from life, and hope for the same for my kids. In my mind, being assertive also means being mindful. I will always remain involved with my children as a parent. I understand this means stepping back and letting them be, at times, but it also means interceding at times.

What the wildness within me in my youth has grown into is a lack of automatic acceptance of the status quo and a willingness to evaluate each situation and decide whether it calls for assertiveness. If it does, I'll hop up from my chair and go forth.

The thing people misunderstand is that questioning doesn't automatically mean rebelling; wondering if something is a problem is not automatically declaring it a problem or creating the problem; and being nice doesn't mean being quiet.

I will be clear and speak up when it's called for, I'll describe problems or express concerns, and won't be afraid or guilty of using my voice. I won't appease or accept excuses, but I won't act too hastily or aggressively. I'll encourage my children to hope for success.

Assertive and humble. I'll endeavor to be assertive yet humble, endeavor to get the most from each situation, and teach my children to do the same.

I encourage you to go and read the comments from yesterday's post. There are some fantastic points of view, great information, wonderful opinions, and interesting discussion.

I encourage you to tell us your thoughts on this topic---assertiveness, education, adults, children, gender, politics and so forth. Posts from today or any time before today welcome! Just please link to here so others can see the entire discussion.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 26, 2008

Brief Alert re. Spam and Comment Setting Change

I've noticed a sudden upsurge of spam the last couple of days. My personal domain is getting slammed despite filters, and some are slipping through here as well. It seems to come and go in waves, but I wanted to tell people I've noticed it. I'd turn on my comment moderation, but I can't moderate comments today and don't want them clogged up and invisible. So I hate to say it, but for today and maybe tomorrow I'll have the word verification feature on. Sorry.

You might also check your settings.

Thanks, Julie

P.S. Real post with topic below: What things make our children successful in the classroom?

What things make our children successful in the classroom?

I want my daughters to be successful---personally, educationally, and professionally.

That sounds like a boring statement of the obvious. It is.

What's not so obvious is how to achieve that. There are many obstacles: personal foibles (mine and theirs), a larger world to work within, and so forth.

The key to achieving goals successfully is to break them down into realistic, smaller parts. We all need to feel a sense of completion and accomplishment. It motivates us, keeps us engaged. So I'm focusing on the here and now: school.

How can my kids be successful in the classroom?

As I researched factors that contribute to success in the classroom, I ran across a lot about assertiveness, primarily assertiveness with humility.

Ah ha, I thought, I'm not surprised.

But I am worried. Why? It's because of the feedback I consistently get about Patience from teachers.

I'd like to think that each and every teacher my daughter encounters is in the classroom out of a love of children and teaching and will encourage my daughter to love learning by supporting her as she is.

That's a fairly high---and unrealistic---expectation.

We're all biased with preferences. Some teachers simply will not like some kids. They'll be drawn to others. They'll feel a bit ambivalent about the others. I think my daughter Patience will more often than not fall into the third category.

As one teacher explained to me, kids like Patience are simply enough: smart enough, well-behaved enough, motivated enough, works well enough on her own, is self-disciplined enough, and so forth.

Although that sounds fairly positive as endorsements go, and appears to demonstrate that we've got a pretty good kid, it actually concerned me because what I heard was that my daughter is the kid the teacher doesn't need to pay any attention to and is the kid who just might slip through the cracks.

I imagine my daughter Patience will continue to be liked enough by her teachers, as she has been. I don't think she is overlooked, but I also don't think she stands out. Patience-at-home and Patience-at-school differ in many ways. One teacher assessed her as having "a quiet confidence that you might easily mistake for timidity or insecurity if you didn't pay close attention."

Close attention is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm Patience's best advocate, so I'm going to do what I can to foster the traits in her that will help her succeed in the classroom, but I also want to keep the bigger picture in mind.

What traits help children succeed in the classroom?

I suspect that the two I keep running across---parental involvement and assertiveness with humility---are the keys.

Will the traits that help her succeed in the classroom help her overall in life?

That's a bigger question, I think, than it appears on the surface.

I'd love your feedback about how parents should be involved in the classroom, how their involvement can help a kid succeed, and what types of kids are successful in the classroom. (Especially teachers and involved parents!) How does assertiveness fit in to this? What is appropriate assertiveness, in the classroom?

And in keeping with the theme emerging this week, this week's Hump Day Hmm is about assertiveness and gender politics. Take any angle you like, from school, to personal situations or professional situations. Discuss your experience, or tackle a public figure's experience. You guys had over thirty well-thought out and intriguing comments to yesterday's post...I'd love to see you expand on those ideas. Author Mom With Dogs, you who challenged us to turn the notion on its ear? I especially hope to hear from you tomorrow. :)

Next week...we're going to tackle the notion of free speech in writing, particularly blogging, considering that court cases are considering it fair to limit free speech on blogs and are definitely willing to use your words against you.

The following week, courtesy of Angela at mommybytes, "...describe an incident where you or someone was wronged, in what would normally be considered outside of the social norms, and how you reacted, how you wish you reacted and what is possibly the best way to inform these idiots that they screwed up if that is even possible." (Sorry it's a couple of weeks out, Angela! I already had this week's in mind and had promised the free speech topic a week or so ago. But I love your idea.)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 25, 2008

Is there gender bias on the playground and political field alike?

Yesterday it was a sunny and hot 85 degrees here.*

We spent a great deal of time outdoors, including a family outing to a popular local restaurant with a shaded patio that surrounds a playground for kids.

Alert-eyed parents scouted for available tables and staked claims to tables clearing out. In most cases, the dads were sent ahead and they did a good job of staking claims rather genially. One dad approached the table next to us and began to move in when another dad popped up and said, "Oh you know, we were going to sit here," the first dad hesitated for a second---should he challenge? He had to weigh: disappoint his approaching wife who told him to get. that. table. now! or follow his instincts to move on---then he said, "Right, sure, sorry," and began to move away. The second dad, his territory respected, said, "Well maybe we can split the two tables, if your family doesn't mind being tight? How many do you have?" The dads proceeded to negotiate the division of space, and upon completion of this, each stood territorially near his table, satisfied smile of success on his face.

Within minutes, the moms and children arrived. The children only briefly checked in---impatiently listening to parental reminders about safety---then raced off to the playground.

It was fascinating to think in anthropological and sociological terms and watch the interactions between adults competing for limited resources---tables, waiters attention---and children competing for limited resources---slides, prime spots under structures, and sand shovels.

You saw the instinct---get it for myself---and then the brief pause as the higher order brain function overtook the reptilian brain function and manners and mores won out. I imagine it's again---as always, as in the case of the dad deciding whether to challenge---a matter of weighing goals, pros and cons.

I thought of the competitive zoo parking lot incident and I realized that manners are strongest when it comes to ongoing contact with people, especially in situations when you must see other people over food, and reptilian instinct is strongest when it comes to our role as parents.

In the recent Hump Day Hmm discussion about using our words, more than one woman admitted to biting her tongue frequently, except when it came to her children. I believe this is because society excuses (or perhaps the better word is allows) women to be assertive when it comes to their children's welfare.

But is assertiveness instinctual for all people? And does society leave room for women to be assertive in other areas? With impunity?

I considered the character judgments against Hillary Clinton, for example. I know exactly how assertive a woman in a male dominated field has to be. I know we have to both more and less---less emotional and more able---in order to get something approximating equal position and respect. Or, at least you did when I was coming up. I came up in a time when it was still okay to ask a woman in an interview if she was planning on getting married and having children. And then it was okay to decide to not hire her if she said yes. Hillary came up even before that.

When I wrote, recently---here and at MOMocrats---about my concerns with Hillary Clinton as a candidate,** several people challenged me about my standards. I'd written no such critique of male politicians not playing nice. Was that fair?

My initial answer was: I didn't criticize Barack Obama, for example, because I hadn't caught what I considered a pot-shot coming from his campaign. I hold everyone to the same standard.

But is that even possible?

Surely I am biased. Men and women aren't exactly alike and our roles in society aren't exactly equal.

Perhaps I do have different expectations of Hillary Clinton, and perhaps my view is influenced, as it is for so many other people, by her gender.

As I watched the children in the playground, I pondered this. What are the differences between boys and girls, and do we have different standards for them?

Persistence and another little girl of similar size and age stood in a little hut at the top of a slide. They had a little routine they liked to do before sliding down. They paid attention to where they were in the moment and were involved in the journey. Meanwhile, a little boy barreled through the playground, intent on sliding. He paid no attention to where he was or what he passed as he was getting to his destination. His mind was dedicated to a single task: get to slide as quickly as possible and slide down. He didn't notice another child's sand pile that he stepped on, the shovel his foot accidentally kicked out of his way, and he certainly wasn't aware (I think) that he shoved both girls aside in his quest for the slide. But he did. He had a goal and he was extremely assertive in going for it.

Persistence and the other little girl simply shrugged after they recovered from being shoved aside, and took no offense at having their turn to slide taken over by this boy. It was as if, by age three, the girls were already used to boys pushing them aside on their quests. It was as if, by age three, the girls had decided it's just easier in most cases to step aside and let the boy barrel through.

I thought of Patience playing co-ed soccer. The boys never hesitated to take the ball, and nobody ever commented on it. The girls, on the other hand, usually tried to carefully take turns and were so nice to share the ball with anyone who wanted to take it. The girls ran and ran and ran to keep up with the teams as they raced up and down the field. They were excellent runners, excellent at keeping up. Terrible about getting the ball. They weren't assertive enough.

Obviously there are exceptions, both in general and personally.

Every now and again (okay twice, total, period) one team would have a girl who was assertive. No way was she letting those boys have the ball, or anyone else for that matter. I saw that this assertiveness bordered on aggression because she alone had to overcome both her male teammates desire for the ball and her opponents desire for the ball. I noticed boys would help other boys in their assertiveness but were not quite willing to let the girl keep the ball. One girl charged that ball down and scored more times than we could count.

The crowd went wild when the game included an assertive girl.

"Look at her go!" Parents would say excitedly at first.

"Finally, a girl who goes after the ball." They'd continue.

But then...the compliments took a double-edged turn.

"Can you believe that girl!" Parents would say, a little more hesitantly, "She really wants that ball!"

You could tell they thought she ought to pass and share.

Should she?

I saw no similar expectation for boys. The assertive girl was clearly---by a mile---the best player on the field in that game. Our two best players were boys. They definitely kept the ball to themselves, and people seemed generally fine with it. Certainly there were no comments made.

In that particular game, when it was time to switch out players and positions, the coach had a little talk with the girl about giving her teammates a chance to dribble the ball, too.

I started wondering.

I don't have boys. They are slightly alien to me, as children. I'm used to parenting girls, and believe me, I think there are some differences.

I assume all of us parents are teaching the same general principles to our children: be kind, be respectful, think of others.

But we're teaching it to very different people, and I wonder how the message affects boys and girls differently.

Do we need to so strongly encourage sharing, taking turns, and so forth in girls? There seems to be a little bit of a natural instinct that takes over, eventually. Should they have to share...all the time?

Do we overencourage this, out of concern for how we appear as parents, and how our children appear to other parents?

Do we unintentionally pass along a message to girls that we expect them to always capitulate to the needs of others when we force them to always share?

I wonder if we need to do a better job of promoting assertiveness in our girls.

I wonder if it can be okay sometimes to tell our girls, sure, that's yours, you play with it as long as you like.

As I watched that toddler boy barrel around the playground last night---a nice enough little kid, never did anything aggressive, never harmed another child, was simply very assertive in achieving his goal---I observed to my husband, "You know, the truth is, we know that assertiveness is, in the end, a fairly good trait to have, because it enables you to get where you want to go. If I was operating in a vacuum, I'd never comment on our girls' assertiveness because, on a base level, I know it will help them succeed in life."

But I don't operate in a vacuum, and on both a conscious and instinctual level, I know what society expects of my girls, and so, upon reflection, I find that I have spent a lot of time drumming them to "overcome" their assertive instincts.

I wonder if mothers of little boys let it slide a bit more. Now don't get defensive. I see mothers of boys encourage sharing and taking turns.

But assertiveness comes out in other ways, too. I think we step in and teach boys and girls at slightly different points in their behavior.

The mother of that boy stopped his assertiveness at the total aggression point: when he went to take a shovel from another child.

Meanwhile, the girls? It seems we stop them at the assertiveness point.

I wonder what precedent and expectation that sets, but more than that, I wonder what kind of society it creates and how it makes our girls--especially the ones with a stronger degree of natural assertiveness---think of themselves.

* Note: To the people who live north of the subtropics and who just sighed in envy or shot daggers from their eyes in my direction---my day is nearly through; within a month or so our weather will turn unbearable and we'll be locked indoors for 5 months.

** Note 2: I believe a lot of the questions and concerns would be leveled at Hillary Clinton even if she was male. I think quite a bit of it is principle. But, I can't help but think there is a bit of a gender thing at play, too.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 23, 2008

Fooled around and...fell in love

Elvin Bishop singing "Fooled Around and Fell In Love," an oldie but goodie and fave of mine through the ages (literally). I'd have preferred to put up the Rod Stewart modern cover of it but Rod says no.

It's true: the mighty has fallen.

After all my kvetching and questioning about social media, all my fooling around with Flickr, Twitter et al. you could call me a player. I dabble with Facebook, but it was clear: I was not really ready to settle down.

But then.

Michael Stelzner introduced me to LinkedIn.

I fooled around.

And fell in love.

That place has purpose, use, functionality and fabulous resources. It's everything I was looking for.

I think we'll live happily ever after.

Even can join us. Like one, big, happy family.


Drawing Winner

In last week's Hump Day Hmm, I asked you to deliver and offered an incentive (art or editing). You followed through wonderfully. Now it's my turn!


Chani has asked for an art print. So...coming to her soon.



There are always these great motivators and reinforcers rolling around the Internet.

Jeanie was kind enough to pass this one my way:

Thank you, Jeanie! It matters so much to know that I am thought of as a friend.

There are a few bloggers who have really been marvelous to me the last couple of weeks, through support, reaching out, caring, making me laugh, and so forth. So, with thanks, I hand this off to:

Slouching Mom
Borneochica Gwen
Lawyer Mama
Christine at Running On Empty

Mary at Them's My Sentiments wrote this about my a while back, "Julie Pippert at Using My Words has a stainless steel ethic and a brain to match, wonderful humour and is a hugely giving bloggy citizen."

And then she passed this to me:

Thank you, Mary. I am hugging that idea of me to myself.

The list is long---my entire blogroll obviously---of blogs that I think are excellent.

I am passing this E award along to each of the Hump Day Hmm participants from this week, because you guys regularly participate and provide such high quality content that encourages amazing thought and discussion. So this goes to:

1. Robert
2. Angela at mommy bytes
3. SciFi Dad
4. MelissaZ
5. sober briquette
6. Andrea
7. Chani
8. Ria Ludy
9. Blooming Marvelous
10. le35 attachedparent
11. TwoSquareMeals
12. Woman on the Verge
13. PunditMom
14. Angela
15. Aliki


Update on the Boys Just Want to Have Fun mass move

This past Thursday, I facetiously reported that 5.3 million teen boys planned to move to Texas and Oklahoma, in pursuit of hot girls who can sing.

Fabulous and super cool local Houston-area blogger Ed. T provided the hilarious update to this story in his post, "Governors in Texas, Oklahoma close borders in response to invasion by hordes of horny teenage boys."

Ed, too great! Thanks!

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Dear Hillary Clinton, Love, and politics, does mean having to say "I'm sorry"

Image Source: Hillary Clinton photostream at Flickr.

Last night I live blogged the Democratic debate for MOMocrats, a fantastic group of writers who use their words to share political views and news---a group I am happy to have recently joined.

During the debate, I noticed one of the moderators' favorite things to do was take Hillary Clinton to task for her detracting remarks of Barack Obama. Obama hasn't been a perfect choir boy during this campaign, but Clinton is the one who has taken some fairly low potshots that smack either of self-righteousness or desperation.

Both self-righteousness and desperation smell like weakness and appear as a challenge. Shark like reporters and detractors scent blood.

Indulge me as I backtrack for a minute here...

I always had a pretty good mind of my own. But in eighth grade we moved to an environment that was harshly unaccepting of that in me. I had a choice: bend and go along to get along, or break and be alone. I chose the former. By the time I hit my adulthood, I had, somewhere along the way, lost what I thought amidst the need to go along with what others thought. Part of me remembered at times---the tension in my neck, the discomfort in my stomach---but I'd lost the ability to be clear about what I thought, but most importantly, I'd lost the ability to trust in what I thought. I'd received such negative feedback about my thoughts and beliefs, and they had been in such conflict for so long with my environment that even I had learned to doubt myself. But I had a larger goal: I wanted to fit in and be a part of something. I wanted friends and a community. I had to compromise myself to reach this larger goal.*

That's what I see in Hillary Clinton, to some degree, or at least I see signs that make me wonder about it.

Consider her accusation against Senator Obama that he plagiarized Governor Deval Patrick's political ideas and rhetoric.

Does she really believe this, or is it some strategy her advisers suggested? Is this her voice, or is she so caught up in achieving her larger goal that she will suspend her own good judgment and agree to a tactic that others tell her will get her one step closer to her goal? Would she normally be okay with this tactic that asks her to focus on distracting potshots of her opponent?

Either way, it causes me to question her judgment, and ethics.

I admit it: I think she's on some shaky ground with regard to ethics. She's faced some heady accusations, and that's something I'm sure she and her campaign hope doesn't come back up right now. I don't think many of us have forgotten the Whitewater controversy or the death of Vince Foster.

I haven't seen Obama come at her about any of the controversies or potential ethically weak points Clinton has had to answer to in the past. I'm sure she hasn't enjoyed this sort of shrapnel when it came at her, so why deploy it against him?

Does she believe it's all part of a game, and all's fair in love, war and politics?

I sincerely hope not. I hope she's not the sort of person who rationalizes bad behavior and perpetuates it because it happened to her. I hope she hasn't decided this is simply the way things are done.

It's easy to play Monday morning quarterback, and second guess outside of the hotseat, but I do wonder why she makes some of the choices she does and why she won't just say the thing that will fix the error.

What error?

Last night in the debate she defended and entrenched herself in her position that Senator Obama, who she maintains is running solely on the strength of his rhetoric, plagiarized Patrick when she said Obama only offered "Xerox change, not real change."

Because of my profession, I'm extremely sensitive about plagiarism. Attributing ideas and words is essential to ethical writing. It is a large point of honor to me. I sit up and take notice when a person accuses another person of using someone else's words as his own. I will possibly make a character judgment on this point---not an entire judgment, but an assessment of this area. I paid close attention to the accusation and Obama's response, which to me cleared up the matter quickly: there was no plagiarism.

And in this case, I question even the question about it. (This is highly unusual; I normally advocate questioning this.)

It did come across as a desperate ploy.

What I wish had happened instead of what actually happened:

Hillary Clinton---noticed plagiarism, but realized most people may not understand or even find this to be as big an issue as she (or I) might, especially when she discovered that Obama used ideas and words from someone closely involved in his campaign. That lends the thought that perhaps the words were gifted, not stolen. It also lends the idea that the ideas were honestly shared.

Okay, barring that...

Hillary Clinton---utters accusation and gets clarification then backs down.

That's right...backs down.

I don't actually believe this is the death knell of a political career.

In fact, one of my largest hesitations about Hillary Clinton as a candidate is her inability to recognize when she's made an error and admit it.

In a job interview, a common question is "when have you made a mistake and what did you do?" Every job candidate has got to know this question has a high probability of coming and be prepared for it. There are entire articles written dedicated to suggesting how you should answer this.

May I humbly suggest the Clinton campaign read these?

Voters understand making a mistake. We are quite familiar with the need to back down, admit, learn and move on. I think we can therefore extend understanding when a political candidate does this.

May I humbly suggest Hillary Clinton do this?

What I wish Hillary Clinton would do now...

Explain: I believe strongly in using your own words and ideas or honestly attributing them if you use someone else's.

Reason: I was startled to see Obama use words I knew the governor had used.

Apologize: But I mistook the situation and now that Senator Obama has clarified, I understand he was legitimately using ideas he and the governor share in common. Senator Obama, will you accept my apology for misunderstanding the situation?

(Hopefully he graciously says yes)

Move On: Thank you for your graciousness. Now that this is settled, I think Senator Obama and I would like to talk further about health care and the economy...

The other day I wrote about
the value of admitting an error and apologizing
. A large number of commenters agreed with this.

I think the only reason we'd ever believe this wasn't okay in politics was if pundits kept telling us it cut off a candidate at the knees.

Strong leaders do apologize.

Apologies don't weaken.

I'm so tired of the mindset that apologies take away your power and make you weak and vulnerable.

Beverly Engel wrote in Psychology Today, "Apology has the power to humble even the most arrogant. When we develop the courage to admit we are wrong and work past our resistance to apologizing, we develop a deep sense of self-respect." (Emphasis mine to indicate the strength in apologizing.)

If there are two points people feel disconnected from Hillary on, they are: arrogance and judgment/ethics. If apologizing helps us develop self-respect, I think it also engenders outside respect of us, too.

Until I feel confident that Senator Clinton can either wholeheartedly say she believes in what she did instead of blaming others (such as her vote to give Bush unilateral war power) or back down and apologize (such as with regard to the plagiarism accusation against Obama) I can't respect her enough or trust her enough to vote for her to be my President.

I think that's too bad because I think her policies and platforms are excellent. But a person is much more than what they appear on paper; they are how they live, they are character, integrity, honor and judgment, too.

I need someone who can live by the rules and standards I hold myself to and that society holds me to, as well.

Can you be that person, Senator Clinton?

* Believe me, I am endeavoring to move on from this.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

5.3 million teen boys moving to Oklahoma, Texas

Contestant Kady Malloy poses on the tarmac in Santa Monica. (Photo Credit: Timothy White, Fox Photo, American Idol.)

February 21, 2008

By Julie Pippert

HOUSTON -- After last night's American Idol women's competition, 5.3 million teens boys from around the United States decided to move to Oklahoma and Texas.

"Oklahoma and Texas seem to be the epicenters of hotness in girls," said Shane Smith, 17, leader of the group Boys Just Want to Have Fun, "We're young---our average member age is 17---and we like hot girls. We also like music. So the only logical thing to do is move to Oklahoma and Texas, where there seem to be a lot of hot girls who can sing. American Idol opened our eyes to this."

Smith and the Boys Just Want to Have Fun members wrote and signed a manifesto citing Texan Kelly Clarkson and Oklahoman Carrie Underwood as their major inspiration.

"Kelly Clarkson said one time in an interview that she was not the hottest thing growing up, that means there are hotter women even than her in Texas," Smith said, eyes wide. Smith plans to settle outside of Dallas.

To prevent population surges in any one area and to cut down on competition among members, the group plans to disperse evenly around the two states. Members will be assigned cities via a randomized computer-generated lottery drawing.

The states can expect good behavior and model citizenship out of their new residents.

"We have to remain in school and keep our grades up," said member Troy True, "We're about having fun, but responsibly. None of us are into those Abstinence Pledges or anything like that but we can't do illegal stuff or get kicked out of school or anything. That happens? It's back to Minnesota for me."

True hopes for one of the Texas coastal towns, where he hears the girls are hip, talk Southern, and wear bikinis frequently in the year round warm temperature. "They say the Midwest farmers' daughters really make you feel all right, and I guess so, but I haven't had a date in a while and I think I might be related to most of the girls in my small town, anyway," True explained, "So I can't wait to see those Texas girls. Although Oklahoma would be all right. You think Alaina Whitaker has a sister?"

The group is evenly divided between rooting for Kady Malloy (Houston, Texas) and Alaina Whitaker (Tulsa, Oklahoma).

"They didn't give their best performances last night, but Kady is hot, and did you see her Britney Spears impersonation? She's hilarious too! They really grow girls right in Texas!" said Smith.

The group has Facebook and MySpace groups, and chats on Twitter during American Idol episodes. Membership is currently closed, pending final plans for relocation of group members.

American Idol runs on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (7 p.m. Central, for the relocatees) on a variety of nights. Set your Tivo and you won't miss it. iTunes is offering fans the opportunity to download favorite performances, as well.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 19, 2008

Me Talk Big One Day (A Hump Day Hmm for 2-20-2008)

Image source and story of image: National Galleries of Scotland

If you were to ask me, I'd tell you that I tend to say things other people dare not say. I speak my mind. I don't always coat my words with a generous dollop of ass kissing.

Many people consider averted eyes, swallowed words, and sugar coating their due. Skipping this is perceived as disrespectful.

It never quite got me to bite my tongue, though, even at times I perhaps should have. I was bold, arrogant, and defensive about this, as the youth often are about their immaturity.

But as I entered my mid-thirties and beyond, I began noticing a disturbing pattern: a tendency to swallow my words and sugarcoat.

Was this maturity? Wisdom? Or was it a desire to please? Was I tired and worn down?

I sat down and looked backwards---Russo-style, through the opposite end of the telescope---and tried to figure out if I'd ever been as bold out loud as I was in my mind.

Was I? Had I been? Could I be? Should I?

I believe I was.

Perhaps I should have spoken sooner, more diplomatically, more wisely, with better technique, or less judgment, and so forth. It may not always have been done well or on time, but when it needed to be done, quite often, I did speak up.

My current loathing and avoidance of speaking up is understandable, I allowed. It has cost me, at times dearly. Speaking up is rarely well-received. People do not often like differences of opinions, being called on their prevarication, or having to confront critical thinking.

The child who called out that the Emperor was naked never won any popularity contests, not to mention, he was merely a walk-on character in that play. I ought to know; when we did it in my youth, that play, I was Fishwife. The little boy walked in front of me to deliver his line. You might think this an odd placement of characters: a small boy delivering a single crucial line in front of a fishwife, known for her loudness. And yet? Was I loud? No. I was an ironically silent fishwife.

Let's not dissect the potential layers of meaning in that casting.

I consider myself like that child--the one who called it like it was---more so than any other character in that story, at least in my wishful thinking. The truth is, though, that the casting was spot on: I'm really, generally, actually the largely silent fishwife, only occasionally shrieking.

But at least I shriek occasionally, and at least I'm getting better about the when and the how.

So, with a gut reaction of "take it on babe!" and a lifetime of feedback that screams "no, no, never confront! passive aggressive at most! really! swallow it down! get ulcers! die in a graceful swoon on a divan, suffocated under the weight of Words Never Said! but never. ever. take it on!" what do I do with the scenarios I offered up to you?

Scenario 1: People make plans in front of me that exclude me.

If I were a sort of person who actually deserved a name like Julie, I might offer a snappy yet friendly and chipper comeback such as, "And me? Shall I bring the clown or the balloons? Because even though I seem to have missed out on the invitation, I can be there with bells on!" or whatever it is that actual chipper people with charisma say that others find so endlessly amusing and appealing.

Instead, to be honest, I hold my tongue. I walk away and analyze it to death, then I revive it and analyze it some more. I dissect it until I can't stand the sight or smell of it any longer and the sound of my own thoughts makes me want to take a vacation from me.

I will likely decide I have failed.

In a egoistic flailing of massive overestimation of self power and importance, I will assume it is all my fault: I haven't been outgoing enough, friendly enough, called and chatted on the phone often enough, extended enough invitations, and so forth. I'll wallow in self-loathing and sense of failure. Finally, I'll decide I am making too much of it.

Then, I'll do a banner job of convincing myself this is a tempest in a teapot, a momentary aberration (hopefully) that doesn't cancel out the good side. I'll excuse it, convince myself that, while it's annoying, saying anything will only make it worse. Least said, soonest mended, I'll remind myself.

Then some tiny and quiet shard of sense will become larger and louder, "But they were RUDE and you didn't want to go ANYWAY so what's the BFD here? Let's go have us a Weight Watchers One Point Chocolate Mint Patty and watch some American Idol. Now THERE'S a good time."

Later, when trapped in a car with my good friend on this thing that is allegedly a highway called the Gulf Freeway but that, by all appearances, is actually really simply a large, pollution inducing parking lot, she and I will indulge our mutual bad habits of this together and will decide we are each FINE and it is the rest of the world that is SCREWED UP.

Thus reassured by our own hubris, we'll sing "Come On Eileen" and "Our House" and will trade silly stories, trying to one up each other's horror show as moms.

Scenario 2: In our clubhouse, No Boys Are Allowed

I'd assert my opinion. I would! My opinion would be: let the dad in. I might deliver it seriously, a la, "You know, it's really the good thing to do to include him. Imagine how isolated he must feel. We should try to balance, maybe include a few dads." I might deliver is humorously, "A little injection of testosterone might be just what this estrogen laden coop needs."

However. If the majority expressed a discomfort with it, I'd bow to that. I'd swallow my own discomfort with that stance, and work hard to rationalize how it is okay. I'd delve through understanding their points of view, and remind myself that they are nice, and my friends. I'd do this because I'd likely want to remain a part of the group.

Still, it's hard for me to imagine remaining close with a group for the long-run that would deliberately exclude, especially on the basis of something so tied to discrimination.

Lonely can be hard, but self-loathing by virtue of being part of a "mean" group is worse.

Luckily, I haven't been in this position. I am a member of a mom's club and we have attempted to include or entice dads (and anyone) to join. Amazingly enough, despite bold words to the contrary in their youth, most men do not actually fantasize about being the only male in a group of females. Our group talks now and again about how to make the group more palatable for all parents.

Scenario 3: Slacker Maids

This is tough. I've gotten skeevy about confronting service providers until I have an ace (or alternative) up my sleeve. This is because I've found they can be nastily defensive and tend to offer you walking papers if you don't take them as they come. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. And I don't mean that in any kind of good way. I am stunned these last few years by how pitiful customer service has become. I am shocked by how pathetically grateful I am when any customer service situation ends up pleasant, with a good resolution that is win-win.

Current customer service technique seems to be: never let the customer win.

With a new baby, sleep deprivation, and so forth, I'd probably spin so well I'd nearly convince myself there wasn't a problem that needed solving.

Then I'd feel horribly guilty for not making sure my mother got her money's worth.

I'd berate myself with a long string of "should dos" such as confront the service, alert my mother, and so forth. I'd anticipate potential reactions until I made it so huge that I shut down from being overwhelmed and anxious about what would happen, such as losing the service (and I bet I'd think some service was better than none).

I'd like to think that I would trust the people around me to handle the truth, told nonchalantly, "Hey, Mom, you know? That service doesn't seem to be doing all they should. Should we call them? You? me? Together? What do you think?"

But I'm afraid I'd instead worry overmuch about burdening my generous mother and about dealing with an annoying service that might taunt me into Rash Action Born of Flashpan Anger.

And those of you who have tempers? You know what Flashpan Anger is and what can come of it.

I've spent a lot of years tempering the temper.

Scenario 4: Bad service provider

This scene torques my sense of justice (or injustice). I'd be constitutionally incapable of letting it slide. I'd write---on paper, in drafts, or in my head---24 responses and scenes in which Comeuppance Happened. Then I'd realize we are in the real world where people still think denying wrongdoing mitigates culpability. And I'd delete them all, then ponder the diplomatic way to go forward.

May I digress for a moment?

I pseudo-ghostwrote (did get writer credit...inside, small print, copyright page) a book once predicated entirely on the proof positive postulation that 'fessing up and saying sorry decreases lawsuits. Seriously! Here's what happened. A fellow editor and I were chatting one day. "Isn't this amazing, Julie," he said to me, "Look at this: saying I'm sorry decreases lawsuits by X (I forget) percentage. Isn't that incredible? Imagine what we could do for the medical profession if someone wrote a book explaining this to them." Hmm. So we did. Of course we needed Big Names on the cover (other than our own, which were, you know, a big who cares) and some helpful forewords from attorneys, who were really nice to work with. We didn't simply explain the "I'm Sorry" phenomenon, we created an entire procedure that taught medical professionals and providers how to do it, legally.

The point of this story is to emphasize the amazing power and positive results of a well-deployed, "I'm sorry."

It usually is a "get out of jail free" card when sincerely offered after a faux pas; we've all felt regretful after a thoughtless, clueless, or mannerless act.

It can save. It can make friends. It can strengthen all sorts of relationships, from business to personal.

Defensive posturing, denial of responsibility, and refocusing blame on the complainant usually does not. That probably makes enemies, whether you know it or not at the time.

I believe in this strongly. If you can't respect our equal roles in this business relationship, you aren't someone I can work with long-term. Trust will be a major issue.

That said, I also believe strongly in allowing sympathy, understanding, and most importantly, the ability to save face. I let go of this only when I deem a situation a hopeless cause, and/or lose the battle with my Flashpan Anger.

I will extend my hand, with this understanding and opportunity to repair and save face.

People who take it up? Our partnership remains.

People who don't? Not so much.

So in the end...

Is it funny that I allow so much gray and complexity into personal relationships and am so straightforward and confident about business?

What did you say about how you use your words? (Remember, this week, as an incentive...I'll draw a name from the participants and the winner of the drawing can choose between an 8x10 art print or editing help on a post.)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
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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.

Things This Day Will NOT Include (and I'm using my best most serious mom voice here)

That's it.

I've had more than enough of this nonsense. I've been patient (sort of) and aimed for understanding (haven't sent any chakrams flying before asking any questions, which I think ought to count for a lot).

But that's over. My time as your doormat has come to an end, Life. I'm not your whipping boy any more.

So, Life? Your bitchslapping habit stops NOW. I mean it. You will learn to speak kindly to me with KIND WORDS, Life, I am serious here.

So let's set out the rules and expectations:

* No more "my house is falling down around my ears and holy crap where will we get the money to fix THAT?!?!" House, home, appliances, including but not limited to cars, as well, will remain in fine working order.

* I'm all done with flooding and flood damage. It's not even freaking hurricane season yet and I've suffered more damage than in two tropical storms and one hurricane in the last couple of years...this winter.

* The Raynaud's attacks stop NOW. I need full functionality of my hands and feet. I can't be having them go all frostbite, numb and non functional. It screws with my typing.

* Rejection letters will come to a halt and be replaced with acceptance letters. (Okay so far not so good on this one. As I typed this entry in popped another big fat no thanks to my email. Although, wow, THANK YOU for actually sending an answer and being so courteous about your rejection. I mean, somehow I feel complimented while being rejected from that one! I wish more editors were like you!)

* Mood surges end. Not mine (although feel free to end those too). I mean the children. I need some consistency for a bit, just so I can remember how to unclench my hands and teeth and lift my rib cage to inhale air. I'm so tired of tiptoeing through each moment never sure if we've got Jekyll or Hyde on board. It is no consolation that my neighbor with 16 year old girl says welcome to the rest of your children's lives.

* Trashmen will actually dump my trash bin into the truck rather than all over my lawn and drive.

* When I ask a question of a service provider they will (a) tell the truth and (b) respond graciously and courteously. They will not rant and rave, put me on hold endlessly, prevaricate, or act as if I ought to be thankful that they even provide to me the service I pay dearly for. And they guy who said, "Ma'am, sometimes appliances break down. It's the nature of the machine. I can't believe you're complaining, I mean, you got six months out of it. These things just happen. Get over it!" I want his physical address. I'm going to go snip some wires. Or something. Barring that, feel free to take your bitchslappy nature, Life, over his way and slap away. Also? While you're karmically at it? Could you please ensure that AT&T suffers some massive justice? Best Buy too? And whoever decided it was SMART to switch over to digital touchpad controls instead of dials...take him or her down as well.

* Please provide ample fertility to the lady who was such a megabitch about me being a working mother with kids. Let her have three sets of triplets in a row, or better. I'm sure one would do it, but I want her life to be extra, extra special and filled with generous and bountiful blessings of children. And then I want her to need to continue her career, while juggling that with kids so she can suddenly, one day, feel utterly nauseated with the recollection that once upon a time she was absolutely vicious to a woman struggling to keep her career on track after kids.

* I want the six people who seriously owe me an "I'm so freaking sorry, Julie, that was really not cool," to apologize to me. Unprompted.

* Let my HSA agree to pay for at least half my meds. It's still out of my pocket but easier and better. I mean, if I have to spend over $400 a month minimum on med COPAYS, at least let it come out of my own health savings account. Righto? And why should they get to tell me what is and isn't necessary to my health, anyway?

* Public schools: please become the place we are glad to send our kids to, rather than a place that we feel at best ambivalent about. After frantic scanning, searching and numbers crunching, it is impossible for us to remove our daughter and provide her the best, the ideal, the education we feel she deserves--at a private school. Please don't make me feel sick about that. Please. Let me have my goal at the private school ("enrich my daughter and engender in her a love of curiosity, learning, the world, herself, and the people around her") be a reasonable goal with you, instead of my current goal with you ("don't crush my child please don't crush my child, don't ruin her don't let her fall through the cracks, teach her something valuable, please please please").

* Okay okay we canceled our upcoming Vegas vacation. Unexpected expenses and current financial situation make it unwise. There. We are being smart, making grown-up decisions. Can that count as a point in our favor? Please?

* Just let it work. Nicely. Well. Please.

Okay. Whew. I appear to feel all done. But I reserve the right to add to the list...

And you, dear readers, don't forget Hump Day and your Hmm tomorrow. Yes, you can do this topic! Click here to see the topic and directions. This one is so important to me that I will put the names of all participants in a hat and draw a name for either a printed 8x10 of one of my art photos OR a free editing session for a blog post or similar. Winner's choice. My talent and sense of self-worth is on the line now. :)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 18, 2008

When and how do you use your words? Next Hump Day Hmm Topic!

Say it with me: I can do this one!

Do it Tuesday and add in your link Wednesday or do it Wednesday.

This is a topic anyone can tackle, and I hope everyone does: how and when do you use your words?

I've got some sample scenarios to throw at you, but I'd be glad for you to add your own in to your post, as well.

Here's how the Hump Day Hmm works: I supply a topic. You write a post. On Wednesday, I put up a post with Mr. Linky section and you add in your link. In your post, link to my post or blog so your readers can see the other participants. I encourage everyone to read all the contributions and hopefully comment. It ends up being a great roundtable every week. Everyone is welcome to participate!

Topic for this week: How and When Do You Use Your Words...Social Scenarios

Feel free to pick and choose any one, combination or all of these scenarios, or create your own. The object is to share complicated situations we often find ourselves in, and to discuss when we feel open or restrained from using our words, and why.

Scenario 1: You, two friends, and all of your children are walking out of gymnastics class together. Suddenly, in front of you, and your children, one of your friends starts discussing her son's upcoming birthday party---to which everyone but your son, it seems, has been invited. How do you feel? Do you say something? If so, what?

* What if it was a playdate the next day? How would you feel? Would you say something? If so, what?

Scenario 2: You're having coffee with some of your playgroup mom friends when one tells you she has the funniest story. "Some dad wanted in our playgroup," she laughs, "I told him no boys allowed. He was disappointed, but having a man would be too awkward, and anyway, our group is full, don't you think?" What do you think? What do you say?

Scenario 3: Your mother purchased six months of maid service for you after you had a baby. You know this was a big expense for her, and you know she prepaid for the service. The first two times the maids came, they did a great job, but their service has been slacking off. Last time, you know for sure they didn't vacuum upstairs. You called the service to notify them about this. The maids said they completed the job, and the service said they believed them. What do you do?

Scenario 4: On a coworker's recommendation, you began using a service that provides fresh, healthy snacks and coffee for your office breakroom. Everyone loves this; plus the quality is better than what you had been getting at the large stock store. However, you've noticed that their delivery of products is a little unreliable. Some weeks they deliver on Monday, other weeks on Friday, and there have been a couple of weeks of no deliveries. People are becoming agitated, frustrated to not be able to count on coffee or snacks.

On the day you planned to order and restock office supplies, you noticed the coffee and snacks were finished. So you sent an email to your vendor---the only company that provides this service---that read, "Can you tell me if you definitely plan on delivering products to us this week and if so, when? Today is the day I restock the office, and we are out of products, so I need to know if I ought to pick up some items to hold us over until you can get here. Thank you."

Later that day you got an extremely angry and long email from the coffee and snack vendor. He told you that if you are dissatisfied, you may leave their service. He added that he's never had another client complaint.

How do you feel? What do you do?

That's the wrap-up of scenarios!

Remember...take your time thinking these through. Situations are often more complex than they seem on the surface. Big difficult request with huge please and smile attached: be honest. What would you really do? Extra question: do you note any threads of commonality in these scenarios?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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.

Almost Famous

Quite a few people have asked me whether I'm going to BlogHer. Folks, I'd love to go to BlogHer. Here's what needs to happen for that to be possible:

* God must drop a bag of gold down from Heaven for me.

BlogHer did happen to choose one of the most expensive cities in America for us to fly to and stay in. As much as I adore San Francisco and have some of my happiest memories there, it is, in fact, extremely pricey, and I voted against it because of that.

I have applied to BlogHer for a scholarship so with the conference fee traded out for manual labor by me, all I have to find is air fare and a place to stay (box? under a bridge? too bad the trolleys don't run all night...). If they want me as a hat check girl or similar, one of three expenses is covered. The only alternative is if I can think up a really HOT topic and apply to be a speaker. What do you think?

Keep in mind that in the last month the following expenses have tragically accumulated for me:

* expensive vet bill

* storm caused a flood that flooded my utility room (that would be two weeks ago)

* storm caused a flood that caused my back fence to fall down (that would be last week)

* public schools utterly failed to come anywhere near our expectations and thus we are applying to a private school (yes everyone who gasped in shock at my shock of the expense, I get it, it's relatively cheap this school but remember we are POOR, Barack Obama SAYS SO)

Never mind. I can't carry on with the list. It's depressing me.

So I want to go. I'm actively trying to find a way to work it out, somehow, largely involving lighting candles and praying, but hey it's something.

And now...our story...

Almost Famous

My sister and her family and my mother came to visit. My sister and I were regaling the crowd with kid stories, a la dueling banjos. She won, for the record, but only because her daughter added the best punch line. Here's the champion story (which she ought to blog on her own blog but never will so I'll steal it, so Flavia, dazzling dahling, bygones, okay?)

Flavia and her brood (four children, for the uninitiated) were in Target on Friday---a school holiday for her city. They were birthday gift shopping for a party the younger kids had the next day and picking up a few items for the house and kitchen (that means food and so forth).

"Against my better judgment, I told the 9 year old and 7 year old they could bring in their littlest pet shop pets," Flavia began, "But in my defense, I had my hands full and the little kids were on the edge."

Ah yes, one of those distracted sorts of yeses that we moms use sometimes. The sort you hand out when you would otherwise say no, but are so busy fighting battles on other fronts that you say yes and hope you don't live to regret it.

Sadly, it was the littlest pet shop pets that caused the biggest problems.

Flavia and the kids went through the store as quickly as possible, but as soon as Sils, her youngest, the boy, saw the birthday present, he became extremely upset that it wasn't for him and he couldn't have it.

You all know what this means: loud angry crying aka a tantrum.

Then the third child joined in.

So Flavia had to manage two screaming children.

"It wasn't one of those days or times in Target when you get sympathetic looks, either. I was getting hairy eyeballs and rolled eyes and I could hear the judgmental thoughts...and of course what's worse is I think I was supposed to hear what they thought, they made it that obvious," she said, remembered frustration ringing in her tone.

We all know how that feels. I nodded sympathetically, "Been there, done that, bypassed the t-shirt," I told her.

Flavia continued her story, "And that's when the worst part of it happened...Mason ran off!" In the midst of the tantrum chaos, her second daughter, Mason, noticed that her littlest pet shop parrakeet's head had fallen off. She decided it was a good idea to go and search Target for it. A plastic head, maybe two inches. Somewhere, in Target. That's a SuperTarget, for the record.

Off she went.

Flavia's oldest---future network broadcaster---announced Mason's departure. By this time they were at the checkout counter.

In the line, two little kids screaming, and panic and anxiety increasing with each passing second, my sister pondered the best thing to do. She asked the guest services desk to page Mason and tell her to come to the front of the store immediately.

Target paged, and within a minute Mason appeared.

Flavia grabbed her, hugged her in relief, and then began reaming her out about dangers, and told her to never run off from mom and all that. As she wound down from her lecture and relief, Flavia asked Mason if she had anything to say about what just happened.

Mason said, "Yeah, can I go back? I haven't found the head yet."

I think you can imagine what kind of no answer my sister supplied.

Flavia finished telling the story and shared her worry that Mason hadn't learned her lesson and might do it again. We all chatted, mostly in a joking way, and while we did so, Mason drifted down from the upstairs playroom.

My mother, the kids' beloved Nana, turned to Mason and said, "Honey, what went through your head when you were wandering the store by yourself? When you came back and saw your mom so worried? What did you think when you heard your name over the paging system?"

Mason---a somewhat quiet and very creative and artistic sort of child---sat up, smiled, and said, "I thought I was FAMOUS!"

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 17, 2008

What's Love

Last night we had storms come through and were under a tornado watch until three a.m. Because two tornadoes did touch down just south of us, and still antsy from the recent tragedies north of us in Tennessee, we decided to sleep with the radio on in case they ran the siren alert through the emergency broadcast system.

Used to silence, so to speak, at night, the unusual noise and changes from one symphony to another would periodically trigger my brain to sit up and sniff like a curious dog. These brief moments of wakefulness would, I knew, lead me to wake with a fatigue restless night's sleep headache, but also gave me uninterrupted time to think---which in my case means storytell.

So I decided to write up the top two stories from the last few days. Today, a tale of romance and friendship...tomorrow a tale of something lost and something found, with humor and a twist.

What's Love

Thursday morning---Valentine's Day---we came downstairs long after my husband had already left for work. A medium sized red bag waited at the base of the stairs.

"What's that...who's that for...why is there a present on our stairs...?!?!?" the girls clamored.

"Well it's Valentine's Day but I'm not quite sure..." I said, reaching for the bag, looking for a tag. I found it. A secret valentine for Patience.

Every year my mom's group organizes a name draw and gift exchange for various holidays including Valentine's. You purchase a gift and at some point on the designated day, leave it---with a tag saying it's from a secret admirer---on the front porch. In the past, the kids have always been happy to get a gift, but neither has ever really understood the process, captured a meaning.

This year was different.

"It's for you, Patience, from a secret friend who wanted to give you something special on Valentine's Day," I said.

She inhaled a gasp, "For ME?!?! From a secret friend?!?!"

I handed the bag to her, and she took it with an air of reverence. She held the bag for a moment, more intrigued by the idea that she had a secret friend---one who leaves gifts!

"Someone likes me so much...they left me a gift?" she asked.

"Yes indeed," I told her, smiling, "So open it and see what you got!"

She sat down at the bottom of the stairs and dove in to the bag, pulling out pink, red, and heart dotted tissue paper. She finally pulled out a bulky and heavy piece of tissue. "I think this is it!" she said, still awed, and now excited. She carefully unwrapped the object, pausing now and again to make a comment such as, "It must be very precious," and "A secret friend! Who likes me and brought me a present!"

"Look mom," she said, holding up a small china elephant that clutched a heart sign that read "love."

"Wow," I said, "Look at that!"

"It's a girl elephant, too," she said, pointing the pink dress the creature wore, "And it's got a heart that says love!"

"It's lovely," I told her, "What a thoughtful thing for someone to have done!"

"Not someone!" she said passionately, "My secret friend!"

"Yes," I agreed, "So is that it? Bag empty?"

"Wait, let me look," she said, setting the elephant gently beside her, "Oh look! Something else, and a card!"

She unwrapped another item, and gasped again, "Oh Mom! Look! It's a china doll! An old fashioned girl, oh look at her golden curls, and she's holding a flower! I'll have to give her a flower name, but just the perfect one, because she's so precious, from my secret friend!" She cradled the small china doll, then held her up for closer inspection. She checked her dress, pantaloons, flower, curls under a cap, and declared her the most beautiful doll.

"She's fragile, so we have to be very careful," she warned us.

She got ready for school distractedly. She was, I think, equally eager to know who her secret friend was and happy to keep the mystery. Still, she pestered me with questions and peppered me with theories.

"I honestly don't know who it is," I told her. She never was that disappointed.

When her father came home, she ran to him, pumped with excitement, "I got a china doll and elephant today," she shouted at him, "From a secret friend! I guess somebody just loves me that much."

All the rest of her day---card and candy exchange at school, party, everything---fell to the wayside in comparison to the gift from the secret friend. I was a little amazed that a child who has known so much love would be surprised by it. And yet, she was. When I thought about it, I realized that, from her point of view, love from family is a baseline, expected. To know that someone else, outside the family, likes you enough to go to the trouble to buy and bring you a gift...that's very special indeed.

I watched her telling her father about discovering the gift, explaining it was from someone who liked her and thought she was important, then sharing how she unwrapped each item. I followed her as she dragged him to her room to see the precious objects. Her eyes shone with the magic of the mystery and the romance. Such a little thing brought so much.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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, February 15, 2008

All-true Confessions of a Suburban Rickshaw Soccer Mom

I realize I have promised three weighty topics to you, including but not limited to free speech on blogs, more on healthcare, and kids and blogs. However, I have a full agenda of To Dos today and oh, yeah, I'm still sick.

So I decided to take it easy today and figured you'd have no objections.

I thought it was time for a true and real portrait of my life.

This is me on the average day in my momiform and mode of transportation to and from school:

I call it the suburban rickshaw.

I believe people in the neighborhood set their watches by me. I also believe they count on the little chuckle they get when they see me. Here's how it goes: chuckle, glance at watch, chuckle again.

I don't actually just suspect it: they'll tell me.

"I see you every morning just pedaling away trying to beat the tardy bell," says a friend with a smile, "You're like the perfect suburban mom with that bike and trailer and your little momiform on. Gives me a chuckle every day."

So there you go. And photographic evidence of how we appear to our neighbors on a daily basis.

All caught me. I don't usually have a decorated trailer, a police escort, or that hat much less beads. That's us preparing for the Mardi Gras parade. Here's what's true in that photo:

* Persistence does usually wear a tiara on a daily basis. And a princess dress. Luckily we have expanded the definition of princes dress and it now includes any dress that has a somewhat full skirt, a ruffle somewhere and/or pink, and must fall below the knee. Girlfriend has more rules for dressing appropriately than Judith Martin.

* I do almost always wear a hat (most often the battered old ball cap from a company a long time ago, mostly because I fling it on the shoe shelf and so there it is when I am ready to go)

* The outfit is sad but true: I am often dressed in workout capris and an old t-shirt.

Here's a secret: If you are inherently sloppy, lazy or a slacker and tend to not get gussied up on a daily basis, wearing workout clothes is a great excuse. You can look like a slob and people will not mind. "Heading to the gym?" they'll ask. "Trying to!" you can say cheerfully and somewhat truthfully, because seriously, aren't we all always trying to head to the gym?

Note: Yes, I often wear hats. I have a large collection. Hats make me happy.

This also makes me happy---and actual photo of me with my daughter! HA! I'm usually the photographer and so there aren't that many photos of me with the kids. Tons of my husband and the kids, because I'm goopy sentimental and love the dad and girls shots. My husband swears it is no reflection of his affection but he feels no similar call to the camera.

I wonder if this is another one of those mom v. dad deals. You know what I mean. If a mom hugs a child and all the world sees it, does anyone notice? If a dad hugs a child and all the world sees, will we be overwhelmed by the noise of the ooohs and aaaahs? That's right. You know what I mean.

My solution is to enforce goopy sentimentality in my husband.

"Hey hon, look over here! Isn't this an ADORABLE PHOTO?" I'll call out.

He'll glance over, "Sure, very cute!" He'll probably even smile, and will likely even enjoy it.

This is when I remember countless tidbits of advice my husband and many other wives I know have offered: you can't subtly hint.

"So get the camera, you know, and take a PHOTO!" I'll call out.

"Oh! Right! The camera, a photo," says my husband, who is actually an extremely intelligent person, if not necessarily clued in to the small details.

After having employed the photographer, I now have to convince my child(ren) to stay right there for the photo. This is actually the larger challenge. As my sister says, my kids are the sort who believe the camera steals your soul. As such, they are very averse to being photographed. It generally requires bribery and threats.

The end.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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.