Friday, March 28, 2008

Songs for Today...

1. Danger Zone -- Kenny Loggins

(A song I've never liked.)

The air force is out doing maneuvers today. The jets fly low and fast over my house and the windows rattle in their frames. My dog barks uselessly at the perceived threat---anything so loud and unknown must be a danger.

I don't mind the jets so much, though. They are on their way to the Gulf, and I'm simply on the flight path. They don't linger here at all, and are gone in a split second, leaving the air vibrating behind them.

I mind the helicopters more. They fly low and slow, circling. Sometimes they are so close my skin feels the thud of the rotors, and if I look outside, I can see the mouth of the man hanging out the open door. The rest of his face is covered: helmet, ear phones, and goggles. Often there is a mounted machine gun beside him, and I prefer to think it is unloaded.

It makes me think about these men, their helicopters, and communities elsewhere that they fly over, when everyone knows the guns are loaded, and the men are doing a job, not a practice run. Just pondering it can make my heart speed up.

Usually, if these are military helicopters, they, too, are gone quickly. I imagine they fly over us, and are amused to see the little signs of our lives, us, large enough to be seen but small enough to be entertainment.

It's the red Coast Guard helicopters I like least. I know later I will hear a sad story on the news---someone else has driven into the water, another sail boat missing, a tourist caught in the vicious undertow. I hope it has a happy ending. When they buzz my neighborhood and are joined by dark blue helicopters, I know it's about the nearby Boys Town juvenile detention facility. They recently upgraded it to include felons.

Desperate boys do desperate things, and escape attempts are frequent. They run towards the swamps, hoping to elude by wading through the shallow water. If they get far enough north of my neighborhood, they reach the nature preserve and its bayou. There they might be safer from captors, but they are in greater danger from the wildlife, which include alligators.

Neighbors tell wild stories about alligators walking our local streets, but I've never seen one at all.

Neighbors also tell wild stories about young escapees. One of my friends came home to find her house broken in to, the refrigerator left open, milk carton on the counter next to her phone. She checked the last number dialed and reported it to the police. A sixteen year old had called his mother to pick him up after he escaped. The police caught him. Another neighbor was gardening in her back yard, her husband in the garage. He heard her shout and saw the back of a young man climbing the fence behind them, but his wife was on the ground so he went to help her. The young man had shoved her over as he ran past her. She is older and limped for a week. The young man got confused in the odd roundabout that is our neighborhood, and unknowingly ran in circles. He was caught too.

I wonder if these boys are mainly urban reared. How else could they not understand the odd configuration of a meandering suburban neighborhood or the dangers of a bayou?

2. Shower the People -- James Taylor

Spring is fading and summer is coming. Mornings are warmer and more humid, and tend to be foggy and overcast a bit from the moisture. I wear shorts and tee shirt to ride my bike in the mornings now. I don't even want a long-sleeved tee shirt. It's still pleasant, though, and I appreciate the ease of grabbing simple clothes, no layers required. But I also know it means soon I'll be grumbling about heat, and working through excuses to miss my morning bike ride.

I always pull Persistence in the trailer, and she loves it, loves the wind in her face.

"Faster! Faster!" she cries, and if I slow or stop, she yells, "No Mama, go, go!"

On the final street before turning to our street, some neighbors have newly mulched their yards, and it stinks, badly.

Each time we drive past these houses, Persistence says, "Ooooh YUCK! Stinky poopy yards!"

When those neighbors happen to be outside and hear this, I ruefully wave and smile at them, and they usually laugh out loud.

At our house, I pull into the garage, past the crushed sidewalk chalk. Every day I hop Persistence out of the trailer and over the chalk mess. "Walk around it," I say, "We don't want to track it in the house." Every day I make another mental note that I need to sweep out the garage. Every day I get busy and forget. Every day Persistence can't help but stomp her way through the chalk, and point out her yellow and blue footprints behind her, laughing. She loves to giggle, and is entranced by the sound, sometimes stretching it out, angling it up and down, high and low. It inevitably makes me laugh, too.

Inside, I stretch a bit and sigh loudly, saying, "Boy am I tired and hot. I think I need a shower!"

Persistence always agrees, then says, "Me too, Mom."

The morning shower can be one of the most entertaining times of the day. There is nothing quite so lovely or hilarious as a naked toddler. Although yesterday a school friend who has known Persistence since birth said, "Oh! What happened! She doesn't look like a toddler any more! She's turned into a little girl!" I agreed, with that bittersweet feeling all parents know too well.

Persistence has gotten long, long legs and arms. I think she is so tall, but then I see her next to her friends and she looks so very little. She has a very tiny build, and her hair came in late, so she looks nearly a year younger than her buddies. This doesn't slow her down, not a bit. She is sassy. She is a queen.

I sigh to see her so big and independent as we get ready for the shower. She undresses and dresses herself, completely. She gets her towel ready, and tells me, "Mama, you 'member to get my toys, 'kay?"

This is my favorite part. I look in the bath toy bin and choose. This morning I selected a Cookie Monster figurine, a hammer, and a small boat. Whatever could she make of these things, I thought, already amused.

Her bath games are fantastic.

Today poor Cookie Monster was in imminent danger from the hammer. His goal was to get to the boat and escape, but first he had to run all over the tub, climbing slippery walls (which he frequently fell down). The hammer pounded behind him, and poor Cookie Monster shrieked in terror. Eventually, he got to the boat, and sailed smoothly along the bottom of the tub, until...the drain...

Who knows how many more adventures Cookie might have had if we hadn't been a schedule, a tight timeline.

"It's time to get out and get ready for your school," I say, reluctant in many ways, for many reasons, to end the shower.

We have a routine. Persistence always shuts off the water, and we count it down to make sure everyone is rinsed off, "Okay, 1, hair rinsed? 2, body rinsed? 3, toys up and safe? 4, teeth brushed? 5, all set? Okay, off!"

She immediately shivers and claims to be freezing to death, even as I wrap her in a big towel. We keep her clothes in the shower room, hanging on a towel rack, and quickly dress her before even opening the door.

The rest of the morning is always a whirlwind of nagging and negotiation until her classroom door closes behind her.

Today the Cookie Monster figurine is sitting on my desk, to give me a hint of a smile all day until the children come home.

3. Between Something and Nothing -- The Ocean Blue

I'm going to be pretty busy in the coming days, and if anything pans out, more busy than that in the coming months. I've decided to investigate school again. It's nagged me for ten years that I didn't finish my master's. Jon will support me as long as he's on deck to do the same. Because YEAH what we both really need are more degrees...which I always figure will drop our income even more LOL. Also, tomorrow is the county convention and we're both delegates, so...out and about from 6:30 a.m. on.

Have a great weekend.

Edited to add...

The song that inspired my title the other day: Stand Still, Look Pretty by the Wreckers (Jessica Harp and Michelle Branch)



Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The battle of the sexes: Is it a necessary spectacle?


Let's review the battle of the sexes in the blog world this week (in order to prove it's NOT JUST ME):

1. Mitch McDad---Reason #1 (of 1) that Men are Smarter Than Women

Citing makeup and cell phone abuse, Mitch McDad set out to prove in an eloquent and entertaining post that men do have one arena in which they are superior to women: driving.

He was even gracious when I pointed out that car insurance actuarial tables disprove his thesis in four simple words: higher rates for men.

Very funny post and comments...have a read.

2. Jennifer, le binky bitch---Male pattern blindness

Finally exposing a degenerative male disease that interferes with the quality of life for men and women alike, Jennifer movingly discusses the common frustration of wives who are married to men who can't find the noses on their faces.

Commenters reveal a side disease---selective deafness---among other hilarious conditions and syndromes.

Debate rages on whether it is exclusive to the Y chromosome or if female offspring can also inherit it. I'm in the camp that believes female offspring can inherit it.

Karen Sugarpants promised success with her program that teaches men to "look like a woman would." Jen promised success with the "just touch everything" method. And Mamma Loves proposed investigation into a physical phenomenon of "out of sight, out of mind."

I'm hard-pressed to choose whether I should add "hilarious" as the adjective for the post or the comments. Both are funny. Just read.

3. World of One Thousand Things---Hard Science

A rude comment from a male colleague causes Aliki to ponder how motherhood is viewed and accommodated in the workplace.

4. Joeprah---The Lifetime Channel: Just Say No

With graphs and charts (even!) Joeprah explains why television channels devoted to shows that hate it up on men are simply no good for anyone.

5. Get in the car---What Men Want

Married Jen M and her single-but-dating friend compiled a list of what men want...you'll laugh (and cry)...

6. Bitch PhD---Prostitution: How does it affect you?

Tackling the john-prostitute story from a mother and feminist angle, she has some of the best points and suggestions about how to consider the Spitzer scandal and how to handle it with kids.

ADDING:

7. Mom-101---Johnson & Johnson BabyGate: You Knew I Couldn't Stay Quiet For Long

Liz validates how a lot of working women feel when she asks, "Are there any men who feel they can't go on a job interview, point at a framed Sears portrait on the desk and say "Well hey there, I'm a family man myself!"

Are there any men who are scared that that when they mention their kids, a recruiter will think they aren't the best person to write a beer ad or a car campaign? Are there any men who worry that while the guy across the table is smiling and pumping his hand, that in his head, he's thinking "Hm, he'd probably be happier if he were home with the kids."

8. Sci-Fi Dad---Variety

a. The husband's perspective of "male pattern blindess"

b. On the seemingly never-ending cycle of stuff moving in and out of storage

c. On the minefield that is "answering your wife's questions"

Have any to add? Let me know!

Have any comments on this topic? Add them below! (Turning off word verification...FWIW...)

Note: Click on the image to get the story behind the photo and the title...if you don't already know who and what it is...

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stand still, look pretty: The effect of social comparison to idealized images (Hump Day Hmm for 3-26-2008)


Today I am listening to the words of others. Yours. And these.

1. "Social comparison and body image: attractiveness comparisons to models and peers among adolescent girls and boys" (Statistical Data Included) Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov, 2001 by Diane Carlson Jones
The empirical relationship between social comparison and body image has been evaluated among college students, primarily for women. The general finding has been that females who have reported more appearance-related social comparisons have been more likely to be dissatisfied with their body images (Faith, Leone, & Allison, 1997; Stormer & Thompson, 1996; Thompson, Coovert, & Stormer, 1999). The linkage between social comparison and negative body image may be enhanced in the research because the targets of the appearance comparisons have frequently been models and celebrities presented in the media (Botta, 1999; Taylor et al., 1998). Media images of thin females and muscular males represent idealized versions of physical attractiveness. Analyses of appearance magazines have revealed a steady bombardment of images that have underscored the importance of idealized appearance (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999). The repeated media images of thin females and muscular males make these forms seemingly the standard of attractiveness. Social comparison to these idealized images then appears to promote a discrepancy between the attractiveness of self and other, leading to a more negative evaluation of self.

But what about beyond looks? What about esteem with regard to sense of self worth and accomplishment?

2. "Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You're Just a Perfectionist," By BENEDICT CAREY (Published: December 4, 2007)
Just about any sports movie, airport paperback or motivational tape delivers a few boilerplate rules for success. Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best.

Above all, be true to yourself.

It’s hard to argue with those maxims. They seem self-evident — if not written into the Constitution, then at least part of the cultural water supply that irrigates everything from halftime speeches to corporate lectures to SAT coaching classes.

Yet several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress — as Freud, Alfred Adler and countless exasperated parents have long predicted — but also suggest that perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction.

3. "Hedonic Consequences of Social Comparison: A Contrast of Happy and Unhappy People," by Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California, Riverside and Lee Ross, Stanford University
Self-perceptions and self-evaluations depend not only on the absolute nature of one's accomplishment and performance but also on the way one measures up to relevant peers (Festinger, 1954; Suls, 1977; Wills, 1981, 1991). Opportunities for such social comparison are ubiquitous, as everyday social interactions and the media inundate us with information about other people's accomplishments, actions, and lifestyles. Furthermore, the comparison process itself often seems relatively automatic. Most find it next to impossible to hear about others' successes and failures, or good and bad fortune, without reflecting on their own accomplishments and status. People learn early in life that success often is a matter of relative rather than absolute performance and, consequently, strive to learn how they stand relative to "relevant others." Indeed, such social comparison processes often may be highly adaptive. As Festinger (1954) suggested, successful social functioning requires people to evaluate the merits of their views and abilities, and in the absence of objective information, such evaluation necessarily depends on social comparison.
...
. . .researchers increasingly have shifted their focus from the dynamics of the
comparison process itself to the hedonic consequences of such comparison. Much of this work has proceeded from the simple assumption that upward comparisons generally are threatening to well-being and self-esteem, whereas downward comparisons are self-enhancing or reassuring. Many laboratory and field studies (e.g., Morse & Gergen, 1970; Wheeler & Miyake, 1992) have supported this proposition, showing that greater increases or smaller decreases in participants' subjective well-being (e.g.,
elevated mood, enhanced self-esteem) follow downward comparison (e.g., Hakmiller, 1966) and greater decreases or smaller increases in subjective well-being follow upward comparison (e.g., Wood, Taylor, & Lichtman, 1985).

Empirical and anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the affective consequences of a social comparison often may depend less on its direction than on the context and manner of its use (e.g., Brickman & Bulman, 1977; Buunk, Collins, Taylor, Van-Yperen, & Dakof, 1990; Taylor & Lobel, 1989; Tesser, 1988).


What do you say?


Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Maxim (and its readers) can BITE ME!

So...unless you keep your news reading to high-brow or none at all (and even that's not info-blank safe these days) you probably heard that Max!m released its Unsexiest Woman Alive winner a few months ago and she's Sarah Jessica Parker.

(So I'm late to the discussion party. It's still a relevant issue to discuss.)

It's deconstruction time.

First, let's put this magazine in its place.

When I Googled Max!m, this is what I got: Crappy Soft-Porn Lad Mag that, if a man was known to read this frequently and be a big fan and believer of it, should be a real turn-off to everyone carrying double Xs (and by that I mean chromosomes, not porn rating or some other sort of size).

Okay okay that's not what Google really said. It really said (and this part is actual for real true):
Hot Girls, Sex, Photos, Hot Videos, Sports, Movies and Music, Celebrities
Girls, Sex, Sexy, Hotties, Women, Babes, Chicks, Technology, Gear, Video Games, Hotties, Magazine, Maxim Magazine, christina aguilera, Hot Women, Hot Girls, ...

Wow.

Really?

Men, to get your attention, a magazine needs to scream that?

I'm ashamed. For you. On behalf of you. Because I know a lot of you, and you are so much better than that.

Let's be honest, as humans, we like sexy. Don't we? How many other animals consider sex recreational? There's a point here, right? So let's not make this about prudery. It's not.

This is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Second, let's talk about this vote. Unsexiest Woman Alive.

I can't even bring myself to link to the story or articles about it. The commentary is so, so unsexy. It really is. Let's just say it's nasty and subjective, based on looks. Solely. (Until you get to Sandra Oh, where apparently her fake television character's ambition is a real turn-off. Oy.)

Can we talk about more than looks? Can a smart, successful, solid woman be sexy because of her merits, not just her attributes?

Take the allegedly unsexy Parker.

Sarah Jessica Parker seems like a classy and intelligent person. She dedicates a fair amount of time to worthy causes, such as to UNICEF as an ambassador, to DKMS Americas, and to the Pediatric Epilepsy Project. She's successful in her career, and continues to be a sought after actress and spokeswoman. She seems to prioritize her marriage and family.

Dear Maxim...that? Is sexy.

I am pretty sure the average man who has a mental and emotional age above 20 knows that, too. I know a lot of men and they seem to value these sorts of things. I know their wives, too, and thus know their actions back their words.

Listen, Christina Aguilera and Charlize Theron (often listed as sexiest women) are probably fine people. But I don't think their merits are being evaluated at all. I think their looks are, exclusively. And what message does that send?

It does send one; it's not all just fun.

Thanks to easier digital image altering software, it's barely a second to alter a perfectly naturally lovely woman such as Kate Winslet into a barely recognizable Barbie-like sylph. Our media calls women such as Tyra Banks fat.

What does this do to us, the reader, the consumer, the person living in a society with the readers and consumers?
How do people come to understand themselves? A response to this age-old question involves what has been labeled everyone's "second favorite theory" (Goethals 1986): social comparison. The original formulation of social comparison theory (Festinger 1954) demonstrated how, in the absence of objective standards, individuals use other people to fulfill their informational needs to evaluate their own opinions and abilities.
Source: Social Comparison Processes

Although social comparison theory has been refined since its introduction in 1954, in short, it claims that, "People look to the images portrayed by others to be obtainable and realistic, and subsequently, make comparisons among themselves, others and the idealized images."

It's clear that even though comparison of self to ideal isn't that simplistic, it does affect how we view ourselves and others, affects our self-esteem, and I think it also can strongly affect our expectations.

Magazine and celebrity images aren't real. They are enhanced ideals. Like art, it's a manufactured personal view of how something could look from an individual's eye. Even the famous "sexy" people can't maintain that level of perfection. It's not real, even for them. But it's the image we are subjected to again and again: frozen moments of very young people at the height of their physical game.

A barrage of fakely perfect is bad enough. We don't need an unsexy category. It's just the uglier twist on negative social comparison. That's what's ugly.

I'm disgusted.

But considering Max!m readers put Lindsay Lohan at the top of the sexy list in 2007, I shouldn't be surprised. She's 21.

Askmen.com selected Elisha Cuthbert, who cashes in at a more "mature" 25.

Both have sex scandals behind them.

I suppose young girls who are scandalous are what these 2.5 million men* find sexy.

That's too bad. Lohan seems to be a troubled young woman. I wonder how much of these dysfunctional messages are at the heart of that.

Overtouting the ideal isn't good. Focusing on girls as sexy and sex objects isn't good. (And trust me, I did a little experiment a while back and discovered that according to the online world, boys have lives and girls are bodies. I don't think that's too disparate from other forms of media...or life.)

But rating women according to how far they are from this ideal?

That's so much worse.

Note: For Wednesday's Hump Day Hmm, take this issue---this idea of rating people according to how they fit or don't fit some arbitrary ideal---and debate/discuss some angle of it. Make it general or make it personal---how it affects you, our culture, your kids, your morals...however you want to approach it. Next week we'll discuss atonement. (That will make more sense when I share the story behind it.)


* Max!m has a circulation of about 2.5 million readers, although newsstand sales have dropped slightly more than 12%.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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How I spent my Spring Break (In Photos, Wordless) (Yes I'm for real)






Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Top 7 Things I've Learned Thus Far on Spring Break (or: Rumors of my AWOLness are not at all exaggerated)

Okay so I have been on Spring Break. That means this girl likes to party all the time, which apparently doesn't include anything relating to blogging other than hanging out with bloggers in real life. Although party has a new definition these days and seems to cap off at 9:30ish, it's about quality not quantity.

(I swapped out the image; the first one was freaking out visitors. We can't have that! So I subbed in a nice local beach shot instead.)

In no particular order other than as they occurred to me, here are things I've learned so far this week while on Spring Break (which is not finished yet):

1. Men are freaking weird. Some of them are actually turned on by a woman eating an aluminum can. With her bare teeth. I have no words. Okay a few: I would never ever be turned on by a guy eating an aluminum can with his bare teeth. Not even if he wore a really low cut tank top. And was wet. And strongly resembled Adrian Paul. Not even then.

2. The mouse car makes good time. And gets decent gas mileage. No, really. Mine does. It's called manual transmission, friends. Sometimes control freak and Luddite combine well, for the good of the planet.

3. SXSW music festival is still cool after all of these years. I even recognized the names of a few bands (thank you Grey's Anatomy soundtracks).

4. Canadians, particularly Not So Sage and Something Baby Blue, are wicked cool people. And they know how to rock it Austin-style. I have a photo. Yes, one. But it's on someone else's camera and I have to get it back. Hooks and crooks in planning stages. I must also mention that they are amazingly tolerant to be dragged on a tour of my romance with my husband, "And that's where we had our first date, and oh we're eating at the scene of our first big fight, and then over there is where I used to work, and wow, that building is where Jon and I went to our first big dress-up party, and dropped hand-made mini-parachutes off the balcony..." I can be grateful, I think, for the fact that Canadians are amazingly well-mannered. Until the next point, when I feel guilty about not being Canadian enough. ;)

5. You can freak out Canadians very easily simply by dickering with your waiter over the bill. Apparently, they are unaware of the Tejano SOP for bargaining over a mistake on one's bill, and the deep and abiding long-term respect one can build by being (shall we say) diplomatically passive-aggressively insistent that it be corrected. I saved us $12 bucks people. You know you were impressed. But not half as impressed as I am that a vegetarian would eat meat rather than complain to a waiter. ;) You come spend more time with me. I'll have you fixed in a jiffy. Also? I do not actually bathe in the blood of virgins to maintain my youthful appearance. That would be ridiculous. It would be way too much trouble to find a virgin. And speaking of like a virgin...

6. Angelina shops at Wal*Mart. ANGELINA JOLIE, people. L'Angelina. Yes, she and Brad are filming in Central Texas. Despite our best efforts, we did not happen across Brad and Matthew dining together on Congress Street. It would have been sweet. <-- That's what we call an understatement. But...alas. However, I would not have found them hot if they started chomping aluminum cans. (One of us---the Super Cool One with a BADGE---had celebrity brushes, but it's her story so you'll have to read her blog.)

7. Kyla is a really good friend because she did not laugh once at my need to eat Swedish Fish obsessively while road tripping. And she did share her Smarties, which I got about six total of after my kids found the box. However, it is here that I learned the NUMBER ONE thing so far on Spring Break: Smarties are simply OLD FASHIONED M&Ms!! Yes, friends, the M&Ms of my/our youth. You know the ones, the way they were before the "melt in your mouth, not in your hand" campaign! I am so going to Canada for my candy now. I bet you guys even have proper cherry sours, soft center ones that make you pucker for a second before ODing on sweet. We'll make a trade of it: Canadian candy for Mexican vanilla. You foodies. You know you want it.

Okay folks, I am on the road again...will see you later. Sorry I haven't been by your spots. I opened up reader and had over 300 posts accumulated. I confess I am likely to click Mark All Read.

I won't mention that other than threats of a storm that never materialized (not here anyway, sorry north Texas folks and mid-west folks who got nailed) the weekend at SXSW was hot (low 90s) and the week has otherwise been sunny and 70s. Perfect Spring Break.

P.S. Jenny, I'm sorry, although I hugged the Canadians I forgot to attribute one to you. Bygones?

P.P.S. I have to thank the incredibly cool people (Gwen, Melissa, Andrea, and Emily) who actually seemed to miss me. Whew, balm to the soul, ladies. (Sorry for lack of links, am on the road again.)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Friday, March 14, 2008

Me, Stuart Little and the roadtrip


And on the ninth day, God created the Expedition and he said, "Ginormous, it is good."


The boy is an adorable little six year old, and he was invited over to play by none other than my daughter Patience---of her very own independent voluntary volition.

He was excited because he got to bike over to our house.

He's a native Texan, too.

That's relevant because of the priority system of most native Texans:

1. Church and God and Jesus
2. Motorized vehicles (bigger really is considered better, and newer is the cherry)
3. the GOP and maintaining the status quo, even if it does destroy the planet
4. Football, especially their college team
5. Everything else

(Note: I struggled mightily with numbers 3 and 4. Oh which is more important, which which which? I chose as I did because I have lately decided Texans would rather asphyxiate than change one iota of their lifestyle. Football is king, but I've never seen people as passionate about even the UT v. A&M game as I saw people fight to not recycle or xeriscape.)

Now, because this boy is under 28 (6, as I said), I think number two slides up to first place. In fact, I'm not sure, but it might do that for boys over 28 now and again, too.

So as we rode our bikes to the house, he kept up a decent running commentary of the motorized vehicles we passed. It shouldn't have surprised me, then, that he had a comment about my car, too. I suppose the fact that he commented didn't surprise me, although what he said did.

After we parked our bikes in my driveway, he pointed to my car and asked, "Is that your car?"

"Why, yes it is," I said.

"Wow!" he said.

"You like it?" I asked, "I do, it's a good car."

"Is it...is it real?"

"Is it...what?"

"Real! A real car! Can you really drive it?"

"Yes, it's real, really real, a real car that I drive, on the real roads and everything," I said.

"Wow!" he said, "It's just so small! Like a mouse car, yeah, like a car small enough for a mouse! I didn't know people could ride in cars so small!"

"Well, it's not big, per se, but it's not small, either," I said.

"Oh yes it is," he said, "It's small, a mouse car! You have a mouse car."

"All righty then," I said.

Small car. Mouse car. I drive a Subaru Forester.

I am pretty sure it doesn't meet Texas criteria for "good car." Although we call it the new car (it's nearly 8) and the big car (our other car is an Integra), I suppose it is neither new nor big. But it's not mouse car small, LOL.

Oh but he was thrilled. Such a tiny car! A mouse car! He could not let it go.

Thus, I now think of my car as Stuart Little.

Stuart Little is going to take me and the fab Kyla on a roadtrip.

So adios muchachos.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Righting wrongs: a Hump Day Hmm for March 12, 2008

Angela at mommybytes asked about being wronged and reparation.

I've written several times on this topic. There was the post about:

* the time I followed a good example and stood up to a bad teacher

* the time I finally said enough and left a horrible job rife with sexual harassment and hostile work environment

* the chapped hide olympics in which I complained about bad customer service and the resolution from the companies that post brought

* how I do, and don't speak up at times when I am feeling wronged

* the downside and upside of being perceived as assertive

* the time I testified to the EPA about the personal effects of a toxic environment

It's not always just about me, either. I'll speak up for wronged friends and object to injustice (too many links to insert, LOL).

Angela, in all my experience of frequently speaking up, I've learned that you can speak as much as you want, but by the time people act, they have already created a mental rationalization for why what they did was okay. People generally operate within their own norms of fine. People who grab sports t-shirts away from kids, cars that cut other cars off in traffic lines, businesses that don't back up their products, employers who don't offer proper health care for their employees, yard services that dump grass clippings down storm drains, and so forth are all acting after having thought and decided, and are all functioning according to a set of their own principles---which are different from yours, and mine, and the ones generally associated with courtesy. It's probably a pattern. They---we---always have excellent rationalizations for this type of behavior, and it usually begins and ends with the "every man for himself" argument, which I admit is often compelling.

I don't think you can change people; I do think you can plant a seed, though, or create a new boundary (with you at least). You can use situations as teaching and learning examples for your kids. You can use the event as a chance to consider differences, and to evaluate our position on issues.

Speaking up doesn't always mean engaging in direct conflict (even diplomatically). Sometimes it means, simply, teaching and learning within a moment.

So for those who often sit quietly within a moment...fixing a wrong doesn't always mean confronting the wrongdoer. Sometimes, the best solution is to create the change you want in your own life.

How do you think wrongs ought to be handled?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Monday, March 10, 2008

For my friend, on the occasion of her 37th piece of trying news


Note 1: The You? Yeah, you, I mean you, or maybe not, maybe I just mean general you. Maybe you just hit 30 and have no idea how fast this decade passes. Or maybe you aren't even 30 yet. Maybe you are 50, and think I know nothing yet. The point is, there is always something more and less on either side of us, however you view it.

This past weekend, Angela at Reality Testing and I both wrote about loss, and grief. We wrote about it very differently. I made mine humorous, she made hers poignant, and neither of us wrote about the traditional sort of loss or the standard sort of grief. Then, today, my dear friend Sarah wrote movingly, also, on the same topic.

I'm not sure how to put it into words, but there is a loss that occurs, or that you finally become aware of, at about this age. It is the loss of youth and illusion, perhaps, although a corner of me debates that this is what it is.

It goes back to that Russo quote, in a way.

I don't think we begin to view life backwards---at least not all the time---but there is a point when you realize something along the lines of, "this is the beginning of the end." It sounds morbid and morose, but it's not. In fact, it might very well be the absolute opposite. It might be motivating, and invigorating. It's life, with acceptance and a new knowledge of its brief flicker.

It starts with little things, and you hardly notice. You think, oh this is growing up. That slides into, oh this is growing old.

For me, the first of the last hurrahs, more or less, was when I was 25, and went out on a work night with friends. It suddenly wasn't as fun, and I was worried about being tired the next day. My mind was thinking forward, worrying a bit about a project. I wasn't simply in the moment. I woke up the next day, regretful. I was tired, and a little hung over.

The next of the last hurrahs was when friends began taking out of state opportunities, and eventually we, too, took one. Our last ties with friends from youth slowly dissolved, even though minds and hearts had not let them go. Some part of you thinks, oh someday, when things settle, we'll catch back up. But when someday comes, everybody has built full and busy lives, without much space for the old.

Children, moving into parenthood is another hurrah. Instead of turning your attention so much outwards, with friends, your attention turns more inward, to family. There's almost no choice for it. You begin to select places to live, things to do, and friends that are family-friendly. You might have at one time wanted a brownstone in Brooklyn and a demanding career, but you've chosen to have a family, and so...you're elsewhere, doing something else.

I think it is somewhere around here, that you begin to feel that sense of slipping. You made choices, and that closed off some opportunity. The world is no longer limitless, and you, untethered. Although new possibilities are always on the horizon, there are limits now, more resounding consequences.

It might be realizing, wow, I don't care to eat hamburgers anymore because the old GI tract isn't up to such challenging digestion.

It might be grieving the loss of potential or career accomplishment, or settling into a compromise of some sort, while others zip past you.

Maybe it's when your status alters from wunderkind to that's simply meeting expectations.

It could be discovering that you really do need eight hours of sleep, otherwise you feel achy and crabby all the next day. Or maybe it's finding that your medicine cabinet contains less grooming products and more health care products.

You hope it's that simple. But it rarely is.

Sometimes it's divorce: yours or a close friend's. You feel the fragility of ties keenly now, and you might even pull back a bit from friendships---in a pointless pattern of protection.

Sometimes it's death or a near death experience such as a disease: a peer, someone close in age or a relative. You feel the fragility of life. "It was just a headache, that's how it started. Headaches every afternoon!" Someone said to you in a whisper at the funeral, and instead of thinking simply what a shame, you went on to think oh I have a headaches a lot of afternoons, and you wondered if you ought to call your doctor. You also wondered whether hypochondria is a requirement for old age. One time you did call your doctor, and you walked in with a laundry list of aches and pains, and your doctor said, "That is just the aging body...totally normal."

You stared in shock at him or her---surely the doctor is in error and something is grievously wrong with you; you are not old, old age is not happening to you, not yet! But the doctor is resolute, and you paused, gaping, wondering why nobody ever told you. You thought aches and pains and feeling physically old (way too frequently) was something that happened later, to older people---unless, gasp, wait, are you now the older person?

When you stood up from the exam room table, your knee was locked from having dangled for too long. You rolled your head on your stiff neck, and flexed your back, achy from hunching with no support. You thought, I really need to add more core strength training to my workout. It takes less and less food and more and more exercise to stay fit and healthy these days. Sometimes you cringe at the color orange you are so tired of carrots.

Maybe Logan's Run had a point, with its sandmen, Lastday and Sleepshop.

When you make this quip to a younger friend, he or she stares uncomprehendingly at you, and you realize this person wasn't even born in the 70s, much less watching dark movies such as Logan's Run then.

My mother called me the other day to turn on the television, "I think you went to high school with that guy!" she said excitedly.

I flipped to the channel and watched---it was some middle-aged guy, okay looking, but face slackening and sliding closer to his neck, body a little meaty, hair gray at the temples. I peered more closely.

Holy mother of goodness and invention.

I did go to high school with that guy. And he was not old; he was my age.

I---you---conquer vanity and do not run to the mirror to peer at any loose skin under the jaw. You---I---do not hold up the arms and check for waddling. There will be not formal photo comparisons of then and now. Although, as you passed your engagement and wedding photos, framed, hanging in the hall, you did notice how ridiculously young you looked. Grown up. Right. You did not laugh aloud.

That's because---although it is worth it to have a sense of humor and many days you do---deep down there is a sense of loss and grief. You've accomplished the first half of your life's goals now. You've done the things you are supposed to: completed college, took a job and worked hard at it, got married, had children, bought a house, and so forth.

Now things seem to be unraveling in some way.

It's both an epiphany and a confused sense of loss, all at once.

Yes, an epiphany...
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

And a confused sense of loss.
detriment, disadvantage, or deprivation from failure to keep, have, or get; the state of being deprived of or of being without something that one has had; the accidental or inadvertent losing of something; a losing by defeat; failure to make good use of something, as time; waste; failure to preserve or maintain: loss of engine speed at high altitudes; destruction or ruin...

Some of us have this more broadly than others, maybe it started earlier, or more tragically. Some of us have a series of small losses, while others have big and obvious ones. We look at our peers at this age and feel both blessed and cursed by comparison.

In a funny way, a couple or more decades past high school, life can feel more than a little bit just like high school, where you are clustered into communities with people not so much of your choosing as by quirk of fate and placement. You have types now too, just like then: the rebel, refusing to grow old at all much less gracefully, still trying to be hipper than hip; the alpha bitch, clawing her way to the top of the social heap and remaining there by hook or crook; the athlete, focusing the hyper into strenuous training and competitiveness, making sure you know exactly how many miles he or she does each week; the Patty Simcox of the PTA; the loner, the person you always pass by but never see at any events; the drama king/queen; the party people; the adult version of laid back person, always seeking the drama or intense person for teasing; and so on.

In a not so funny way, you are definitely not 18 any longer.

Most days you monitor calories, activity, amount of daily fiber intake with good cheer and gratitude for knowledge that keeps the wheelworks running smoothly.

But other days, you don't want to have to worry about whether you took your daily multi-vitamin and cholesterol or other medication, and how those onion rings might feedback on you at bedtime. So maybe the youthful spirit hasn't gasped its last gasp, and maybe you play hookie from middle-aged and getting older for a day.

Funny or serious, it's a sense of loss, regardless.

You know, personally, all too well, that things---and people---do fall apart.

Note 2: Please don't walk away from this with a pessimistic message. I intend this to validate that sort of loss and grief we may feel as we get older. That by no means is intended to imply that we are finished, or wrap up in fleece and rock in a chair. There are blessings to this, too. We are vital, active and living.

Note 3: Wednesday's topic for Hump Day Hmm is...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." Thanks Angela for a great topic.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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But you know, everything looks better after a good weekend's sleep

Or so I keep trying to tell myself.

Persistence slept in until 7:30, which is a good hour later (adjusted time) at least than her usual.

In exchange, our big family TV blew its tube.

Now that's what I call a fair exchange, not to mention how appreciative I am that God brought the smiting in within the hour. I can now go about the rest of my day with a clear mind.

If you need me...I'll be driving to a little somewhere in my totally unsafe Check Engine light on car (appointment this week) to find a bruja to get some gris gris.

Or maybe I'll just drive on over to my friend Melissa's to hand back her Curse of Entropy.

If you simply need to see me using my words...

Come celebrate (or denigrate) my lifelong love of my OCD and Barbie as I explain how I am a total hypocrite about porn star Barbie.

If Barbie isn't to your taste, feel free to learn about how I know there is a God, math, and the upswing in the onset of the Curse of Entropy.

If you prefer a more political flavor, come see to MOMocrats to see what I think Democrats need to do to win over the independents in the presidential election.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I am a Total Hypocrite about Porn Star Barbie

In honor of Barbie's birthday today, I thought I'd re-post my famous (infamous) post about Barbie...

My sister and I were Barbie fanatics growing up. We had such fun playing. In fact, we had so much fun playing together---one of our times of playing nicely---and we played with so much imagination that I remain pro-Barbie to this day. The story was the key to me. Was Barbie dressed the part? If so, then all was good.

I never noticed her proportions. I never noticed whether blonde, blue-eyed Barbie was the Cool Chick. Actually, my favorite Barbie was Hispanic Barbie. I adored her black hair, brown skin, and melting black eyes. (The melting part might have been literal once or twice as Barbie aided me in a science experiment. In fact, Skipper bears a few, sad scars to this day, although she hasn't let it get her down if her still-chipper smile is any indication.) I named her Connie.

Back then, Barbie was a doll who had lots of clothes, accessories, and play toys. She wasn't a political statement as far as we were concerned. Many of our friends weren't even interested in Barbie.

Back then there was very little TV at all, and even less TV designed for kids. We had grown past Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, and had begun our Little House on the Prairie and Nancy Drew stages.

Barbie was often a prairie girl who lived in a Lincoln Log cabin. She tended horses, chickens, grew crops, and occasionally hired Ken to help out with a few things. It never occured to us that Barbie wouldn't own her own farm.

Barbie was also a SuperSpy, one of my childhood ambitions. She sneaked under plastic barbed wire wearing a Wonder Woman outfit and protected us against Nuclear War, which those Russians were always trying to export to our country---or, more importantly from my POV, frequently ended my SRA reading time at school for a duck and cover drill (fat lot of good that would do, although it might have made interesting research fodder for future archeologists).

Other times Barbie was a modern city girl. She decorated homes or was a famous journalist, maybe a teacher. All while wearing wrap-around handkerchief skirts, fashionable wide-brimmed hats, and even gloves sometimes. When evening struck, she rode her bicycle to the disco, wearing black spangly outfits with lacy capes and spiky heeled boots.

Unrealistic as the size of her waist and hips, I know. But fun.

The point is, we dedicated an unbelievable amount of time to fun Barbie play. I swear to this day it is the source for my over-developed imagination.

It won't surprise you to learn, then, that I played Barbie long past an age I am willing to admit to. Okay so I was playing Barbie only today.

I have a good explanation for that.

My mother brought a large, plastic storage tub full of the Barbies, clothes, and furniture she saved from our childhood. I'm to pass it along to my little girls.

Over my cold, dead body.

That tub---representing a small portion of our Barbie paraphernalia (whatever happened to our Barbie camper?---is my Walter Mitty.

It is my Rosetta stone, I realized today, as I opened it and pulled out each familiar object. Looking at these wonderfully preserved toys, I caught a sharp glimpse, a flashback, of who I was thirty years ago and how that helped form who I am today.

I dressed my Connie in the outfits I recalled as my favorites, and was ecstatic to see the Ken Olympic Skier outfit still complete. I marveled that the gold, orange, and brown mushroom print bed was ever beautiful to me, although I still found the yellow pantsuit with half-skirt, bolero jacket and hat attractive. After fingering inflatable furniture, spinning Barbie's bike wheels, and even combing Connie's hair, it occured to me that so much of what I rememebred wasn't a dream, or fiction, the story of someone else, as it so often seems, especially the further from childhood I go. My past is actually my past, my story.

Searching for further anthropological evidence of my childhood, I pulled out my Barbie Caboodle Kit and saw that even as a child, I was methodical, organized, and meticulous. The dolls, outfits, and accessories were carefully and neatly sorted and in great condition.

I had suspected all of it, but here it lay before my adult eyes: my childhood, untouched for well over twenty-five years, my memories in hard proof.

What I didn't expect---beyond the neatly paired shoes, carefully sorted clothes (Barbie's here, Ken's here, accessories here)---and didn't remember was the collection of Barbie lingerie.

Perhaps to my puerile eyes and mind it was simply underwear, minus the Electric Company logo.

To my adult eyes, it was, "Oh MY GOODNESS, MOM! What were you thinking!" I gasped and laughed, holding up a hot pink racy teddy meant for Barbie. I dug deeper. Were these satin ladies boxers? "Good GRIEF, is this a French Maid's outfit? Are you KIDDING?!?!" and, "A sheer nightgown and robe set? What the...did you buy me porn star Barbie?"

My mother, sister and I stared, and dug deeper, finding more risque Barbie lingerie. We laughed and laughed. My sister and I had never realized, nor had my mother. Maybe back then we didn't have Victoria's Secret to tell us that all of this was S-E-X-Y. Maybe we were just playing, innocently.

Maybe innocence is the key.

My opposition to those Bratz dolls, lingerie for first graders, padded bikinis for 5 year olds, and all the other sexed up and sassy toys out there for little kids seemed suddenly so...hypocritical.

I re-weighed the evidence.

I considered: do we need to view toys not from an adult perspective, but rather from a child's perspective?

How often do my kids use toys in ways other than how intended?

Frequently. I thought ruefully of the boxes (that had housed toys) Persistence became attached to during Christmas.

This is actually my rationale for allowing Barbie in the house.

So why not, then, go for the Bratz and Bratz cousins?

Is it simply because Barbie feels safer to me, because she is so familiar, such a part of my childhood?

Maybe so.

However, I have decided that both points of view are necessary: I have to view toys both from an adult and child's perspective.

So the Bratz and toys of that ilk are still Banned in this house.

As for Barbie, I think she'll remain housed in a tub for most of the time. I'd hate her to take over my daughters' play time. They have so many other, diverse interests that I want to encourage. Patience did get that bug vacuum and science kit for Christmas. Better not let that sit idle. She left it out to play with Barbie, and now we have an Unidentified Bug loose in the house.

copyright 2006 by Julie Pippert
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

3 Girls in a Math Tub, to Say Nothing of the Dog...or, How I Know God is Real

It is no question to me that God is real. The proof is in my life, which is clearly one of intelligent design. God has a plan for my life, no doubt, and it involves balance, equal measure of yin and yang.

Do not imagine that uttered in the dulcet, ethereally even tones of a spiritual master.

No.

It's more like...Chevy Chase. In Vacation.

"You'll go on this vacation and you'll like it!"

I used to think, geez, God is pretty big and busy, you know? Why would he make sure that little old me gets what is coming to her? Then two equal but opposite theories---science and faith---proved that he does.

Apparently infinite really means no limit to space and time, at all. I realize the older we get the harder this concept is to grasp---infinite! no limit! all the space and time you want!---and sounds more and more like a myth to dream by, but science and faith both depend upon the apparent reality of the infinite.

Since God is and has infinite...he has time to make sure my life has its yin and yang, side by side.

I won't trouble you with the lifetime of events that prove this, instead I'll tell you about my Friday....

My Friday began on Thursday when I had a bit of a panic about money, and this overwhelming sense of anxiety that life is demanding more than we currently have.

For example, our back fence is jury rigged since the last storm, which is simply called a storm rather than tropical storm or hurricane (because it's not the season for those). So it's just a storm, even though it blew down my back fence, destroyed my gazebo and flooded my house. But we've cleaned up and got things together and now we are at the point of we did all we can, time to call the professionals.

(Speaking of, I have enormous disks of tree trunk stacked in my yard. I refused to let the tree guy cart them off because I feel sure someday a carpenter will walk into my life and we'll think of something excellent to make of them. It's oak, for goodness' sake! So if you know anyone...)

But professionals cost, and wouldn't you know just then the "check engine" light came on in both of our cars.

Thus, I panicked a bit about money and how I ought to be earning a lot more than I do. This prompted me to play my Last Resort card and call a job agent about a type of job I swore I'd never again do. She was so blase about it all, "You know, there are just so many writers these days...we get such an overwhelming number of applicants...we'll review your qualifications and our clients' needs and contact you if we find a fit..."

She called me, basically, a dime a dozen.

Babe. I'm worth a quarter at least.

I staggered my way through the rest of the day. At the church, while picking up Persistence, I paused at the job wall. These are positions intended for the needy, but I thought just maybe I might qualify as needy. I tore off a paper tab with a phone number on it for a childcare job. But by the time I reached the colorfully painted trash can outside the front door, I'd recalled that I don't really like children very much (en masse, you understand, I like them in principle, and of course my own, but not en masse) and I tossed the scrap in. Then I felt bad for the waste of it.

The weather suited my mood. The clouds were heavy and gray, the wind fierce. A big storm was on the way, and I found it portentous. I stood outside my car, in the light rain, and I waited for it: the flip side of the smite.

See, things were not going well for me. That meant that the good was just around the corner.

It took me about thirty years but after that I quickly got the hang of God's intelligent design in my life (there's the faith bit). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (there's the science bit). Good is balanced by bad (there's the thousands of years of mysticism bit).

So any time things get bad, I pause and wait for the good. Any time things get a bit good, I pause and wait for the smiting. In fact, I prefer the smiting to happen right away---which it usually does, the same day often---and then I can just enjoy the good. But if God holds off, it's a form of torture. Just bring on the smite already!

Persistence looked out the window at me, puzzled by my pause in the rain, and suddenly I felt a slight lifting of spirits. That optimism paid off later in the day when a nice opportunity came my way. But of course, a storm was overhead, and it brought trouble to that, too.

The real Friday began at 2 a.m. when forces beyond my control woke me, fully. I staggered downstairs after 38 minutes of unfruitfully trying to get back to sleep. I plopped on the sofa and wrapped myself in a blanket, then tortured myself with two episodes of Law & Order. Thankfully, at about 4 a.m. I fell back asleep. I got about ten minutes in before my husband came down, heading out to work.

(Yes, at 4 a.m. He's---and those who are married to architects will know exactly what I mean when I say this---got a 98% looming.)

I managed, after he left, to talk myself into another fitful hour before the kids crept in. I'd barely managed to pry open my lids when they began the usual peppering of demands.

"Oh my GOD," I said, unwisely, crankily, to my chagrin, "Can you two just PIPE DOWN for a minute. GEEZ LOUISE! You'll get breakfast, you always do. Give me a minute. I have to see if I can get my arms and legs to work."

That? Was a stupid thing to say. Then I had to explain to horrified children what a figure of speech was.

Following the usual flurry of our morning routine, I finally managed to deposit both children at their respective schools, whereupon I returned home to engage in my usual At Home time activities. Like most freelancers I spent the majority of my time trying to find work, and then a fraction of my time actually working. I conducted one informative interview, provided a delighted PR person with a golden nugget soundbite (credit not forthcoming), researched and wrote three articles, scanned the multiple writing and editing group job boards I surf multiple times daily, and so forth.

Before I knew it, it was time to go fetch the kids. I still had two loads of laundry queued up that had not made it to the washer, the mail and papers from the last two days were still unsorted on my desk, the breakfast dishes were still in the sink, and oh my stars I had forgotten to eat lunch and shower. Not to mention to rest of the to-do list.

But it was time to go. So off I went.

As soon as I saw Patience I knew she'd had a stressful day. She was in a rotten mood. This translates to loud, shrill, pissed off tones and much eye rolling. More than that, it translates into seeking a fight anywhere, everywhere.

Still, because apparently I am eternally optimistic and stupid, I asked her how her day went.

"Moooooooom!" she exclaimed.

"Don't roll your eyes that far," I warned, "They might get stuck." Then I laughed. Ha ha ice breaker!! She was unamused. I could feel that her annoyance had a concrete target now: me.

"Okay, then." I said, "So today, at school, what was the thing that you just thought, ugggghh I wish this was not happening or was all finished already?"

"Writing!" she said, furious, "I HATE writing. It's SO STUPID. We just have to sit there at our desks and write and write. There's just NOT that much to SAY. But we have to sit there. Writing." She shuddered. "When where I'd really rather be is at the bathtub."

I hesitated. I had to have heard wrong. But I was loathe to invoke her ire by asking a question. I'm not that stupid.

"The bathtub, I see," I said, cautious.

"BATHTUB! Moooom!!!" she said.

"Ummm, okay what did you say?"

"MATHS TUB!"

"Oh, maths tub," I said, "Got it!"

"No Mom! MATHS tub!"

"Right," I said, "Maths tub, got it!"

"That is NOT what I am SAYING!"

"Hmm. I hear you saying MATHS and I hear me saying MATHS, what do you hear?" I asked.

"It's MATHS!"

"M-A-T-H-S, right?"

"Yes! Great scott, Mom."

I blew out a breath. "So you really enjoy maths, and like the maths tub, that's great. But writing, not so much." My inner self leapt for joy and curled up fetally to sob. "What do you do with the maths tub?"

"Mooom! Math! Of course."

I lost my patience at this point and said, "Okay seriously. The snottiness is not necessary. I'm not in your class or school. I don't know. I know you know, because you are there every day but I don't know. So I ask. I ask because I don't know but also because I love you, care about you, and so I will always care about your day."

To her credit, she was chastened. Unfortunately, it lasted only a second. With the target---me---for her churning, frustrated emotions removed, she needed a new direction. She chose her sister. The way the dog smelled. The fact that one of her books was on the coffee table, clearly a book her sister and I had read, without her. An utter lack of any food or snacks, or at least an utter hatred of every one we had available. Finally, I'd had enough.

"You are feeling pretty frustrated and upset now, that's clear," I said, "But it's not okay to take it out on everyone and everything around you. Run around the backyard, jump on the trampoline, go outside and scream, tell me how you feel or what happened, have some private time in your room..whatever you need. But your time with company is over until you have gotten to where you can treat us kindly." I said it relatively calmly, yet firmly.

She opted for private time in her room. I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and sent her upstairs. When she returned about 40 minutes later, her sister and I were playing with playdough in the office. She walked up to me and hugged me.

"Want to join us?" I asked.

"No, I don't feel like playing playdough," she said.

"Me neither," her sister agreed, "All finished!"

"Okay, let's just clean this up," I told them, and with relatively good humor and cooperation, they did. Patience and I picked up the playdough and put it in the tubs, and Persistence put it in the bag along with the toys. After we finished I looked at the floor with dismay. "Oh no, I guess we got a lot off the mat. That's okay, I'll just vaccuum it up quickly."

I walked exactly two steps to the vacuum, which was sitting in the entry hall, waiting, I suppose for me to use it, as I had planned for the last three days. I plugged the extension cord into the wall, then plugged the vacuum cord into the extension cord. I pressed the on button. Nothing. I flipped it again. Nothing. Oh! Right! The outlet was tied to the light switch. I flipped that on, and pressed the on button and BOOM!

The cord burst into flames and smoke billowed in my face. I shrieked, probably a lot of epithets mixed with profanity, but I did not drop the cord. I didn't want to drop a burning object onto my probably super flammable carpet---where my youngest child sat, still holding the bag of playdough she'd been in the process of putting away in the cabinet.

So I stood in shock for a minute, clutching a smoking cord.

Persistence sat frozen by the cabinet, staring at the smoke, Patience stood frozen in the entry hall, and the dog paced, nervous, growling at the smoke.

It couldn't have been more than ten seconds, but time seems elastic in a crisis. My brain raced through what to do and options before me, potential disastrous outcomes of each. I made a choice.

Probably breaking even more rules of good sense, I decided the best thing to do was break the circuit. (I know!) I used my free hand to shut off the switch, then I pulled the two cords apart, all the while yelling to Patience to open the front door. She did and I threw the vacuum and both cords on the front lawn.

I dusted off my hands, looked at the former cords, now piles of ash, turned around, went back inside, and shut the door.

The kids stood, staring, dumbfounded. It was silent for probably a full minute, a new record in our house.

Patience spoke first, "Mom? Was that a...fire?"

"Yes," I said, briskly moving around to open windows and get the smoke and burnt plastic smell out of the house, "Yes, it was a fire. With smoke."

More silence.

Persistence spoke next, "Was it...did the...Mom, did the Fire Monster start it?"

I thought carefully. I've spent the last year telling Persistence there is no Fire Monster, each time cursing the stinking fire awareness day the school does every year and wanting to slap the firemen who thought it was a good idea to introduce a bunch of two year olds to the concept of an illustrated monster who starts fires and lives in walls. We even cut a hole in her wall to show her there is no Fire Monster.

However, I felt about 45 feet below the task of explaining electric current and frayed wires.

"Mom?"

"No, there is no fire monster," I replied automatically, "It was, it got too hot and it burned. That's all."

Amazingly, this seemed to satisfy them both.

"On the upside," I said, "I wasn't electrocuted, or burned, our house is still standing, and this must mean something good is about to happen. Let's order pizza. I really don't feel like cooking."

And the children cheered.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
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Image © 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Heaven, she said



When Patience was four...

"I like Heaven," she said, "because I love Kiki, and she's in Heaven." She looked sad for a moment, and in classic form, switched to say, "I like Care Bear fruit snacks too." Then she blew a raspberry.

"Did you know," she said around her candy-masquerading-as-nutritious snack, "Did you know that tadpoles turn into frogs?"

She stared at me intently.

"Yes," I said, "I did know that. What do you think about that?"

"Well," she dug in her cellophane packet for a moment, "Look look Funshine Bear!" She popped it in her mouth and chewed with verve. "They turn into something else. They know what they are going to be. Do we turn into something else? Do we know what we're going to be?"

Sometimes, I don't know whether she means something literally, or if she really is grappling with a metaphysical issue.

Before I can decide in this case, she's off on another tack. She slants her "hairy eyeball" look at me, and stares at me intently, "I like frogs, but I like rats and snakes better." She raises her eyebrows, a look she's been practicing in the mirror recently.

This is a reminder that while her vivarium is interesting (a new favorite word)---with morphing froglets and all---what she really wanted was rats. Barring that, a snake. She hasn't gotten over her disappointment with Santa on this one. And since I was in charge of writing the letter to Santa, she's sure I bear some blame too. She happens to be 100% correct in that. Tadpoles/frogs were a stretch for me, and rats and snakes---things I pay professionals to keep out of my house---were beyond my comprehension as pets.

"I'm sorry," I say, lamely and mostly insincerely. "What else do you like?"

"Baby dolls."

"Of course."

"I'm going to go play with my doll house now. See what creatures can go there." She starts to gallop skip away, then pauses to pick up her current favorite lovey, a black rubber lizard with brown dots. She cares for that lizard like it is precious real. I imagine the lizard will rampage through the dollhouse and eat the little boy doll again. Boys need to get eaten by lizards, she believes.

Across the room I hear her exclaim, "DINOSAUR!" and I know lizard will have an accomplice.

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.
MOMocrats

Image © 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Free speech, rights, and amnesty in blogging: Hump Day Hmm for March 5, 2008

(Insert really awesome post that blows minds with amazing concepts and conclusions.)

UPDATE! I did it! I wrote my post and posted it. Whew.

That's right. Last night I spent the evening at the Texas Precinct Convention instead of at home doing things such as writing my blog post for today. I spent the evening making sure my vote got counted not just for the popular election, but also for the number of delegates my candidate got at the convention.

You see, Texas has a complex and unusual primary process. (Click here to read my explanation of it at MOMocrats.)

In the end, if you don't go to the convention, your vote is not counted when considering how many delegates your precinct gets to send.

That's sort of sucky because maybe 1/3 of people return to the convention. Then, even though a candidate might win the popular vote, he or she might not get the majority number of delegates.

For example, Hillary might have won the popular vote, but in several precincts I know, more Obama supporters came to the convention so...Obama got more delegates.

As you can see, it was really important for us to spend our night at the convention. And it doesn't end there for us:

Jon and I were selected as delegates. So now we represent our precinct at the next convention at the end of the month.

I promise to find time today to write my post. :)

But I wanted to get the Mr. Linky widget up so you guys could add yours in. I can't wait to read them.

Instructions:

1. Write a post about the topic of free speech in blogging.
2. Post it.
3. Link back to here.
4. Add your post-specific URL in the Mr. Linky wizard below.
5. And feel awesome all day as you know you are using your words.



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.
MOMocrats

Someone call the ACLU! The Internet ate my First Amendment rights!



Google.

news+blog+free speech

Results: 3,320,000

Results 1-10, front page.

What's relevant?

2 hours ago:

Appeals Court Weighs Teen's Web Speech
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 5, 2008; 10:18 AM
NEW YORK -- A teen who used vulgar slang in an Internet blog to complain about school administrators shouldn't have been punished by the school, her lawyer told a federal appeals court.

But a lawyer for the Burlington, Conn., school told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that administrators should be allowed to act if such comments are made on the Web.

Avery Doninger, 17, claims officials at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her free speech rights when they barred her from serving on the student council because of what she wrote from her home computer.

What did she write?
"`Jamfest' is canceled due to douchebags in central office," and also referred to an administrator who was "pissed off."

Color me surprised a teen said douchebag about a school administrator and used the phrase "pissed off."

Had she said this aloud, she would not have been punished.

But because she wrote it, the school and a court believe she should be.

That? In my humble opinion? Is excessively unreasonable.

She didn't threaten, nor did she employ libel, slander, hate speech or anything else we disallow from the protection the First Amendment provides.

What else?

Oh ho, another, in the last month!

Blog battle becomes free speech case
08:25 AM EST on Sunday, January 13, 2008
By Edward Fitzpatrick, Journal Staff Writer

The Reverend Anne Grant---head of the Parenting Project United Methodist Church in Providence---began a blog protesting what she deemed failures and injustices by the state state Department of Children, Youth and Families, particularly regarding the case of two children, whom she discussed using pseudonyms.
At DCYF’s request, a Family Court judge ordered the state agency to “advise” the Rev. Anne Grant to stop publishing the blog “as it pertains” to the two children.

Rev. Grant is appealing, saying the order violates her first amendment rights of free speech and her fourteenth amendment rights to due process.

What else?

I've already mentioned the case of the divorcing couple, one of whom the judge ordered to cease writing about the divorce and the ex-spouse on the blog.

I've mentioned employers who ban employees from blogging.

How about this case? It's fairly exciting.

The Hartford Courant ordered columnist Denis Horgan to stop publishing his blog, claiming he might (not he had, but he might) damage his employer's reputation.

Cyberjournalist.net has an interesting pro/con debate about this order. Click here to read it.

It doesn't take much Googling to see that the reasonable expectation that each blogger---or more specifically each blogger who has participated in this roundtable topic so far---has for freedom of expression isn't really there the way we expect it to be.

As many have noted, free speech isn't really free. It's freedom to speak, but doesn't grant amnesty from consequence.

Nevertheless.

We're not seeing reasonable expectations; we're seeing censorship. We're not seeing logical consequences to actions; we're seeing violations of our First Amendment protection of freedom of speech.

We're seeing it in the courts, in schools, and in workplaces.

As I wrote to Chani, specifically about workplaces and employers although the idea can be extended to cover courts and schools and society at large as well:
I do think some employers go way over the line. Sometime back, you and I discussed (posted, commented, etc.) the overbred sense of entitlement and ownership some employers have toward their employees' and their employees' time and loyalty.

I think there is a reasonable expectation of nondisclosure.

Then there is over the line, and I hear more and more over the line stories than otherwise.

Employers saying no blogging, period, as a condition of employment, for example. In that case, it wasn't "no blogging on company time or equipment" (reasonable) it was "no blogging period" (unreasonable).

The employer, in essence, was afraid of being Dooced (if you can apply that term back the other way).

Nondisclosure and employee handbook guidelines can manage that.

Violation could result in termination.

Both of those are reasonable.

To just broadbrush forbid it is not, and reflects, I think, that overbred entitlement and narrow-minded punitive style thought. Fear. It shows fear. And distrust.

I find the underlying elements the most concerning of all.

Clamping down on freedom of speech within blogging is the symptom.

We are allowed the right to speak. We are not free, though, from potential consequences such as people disagreeing, feeling upset with us or about what we said, or other opinions. They are free to express themselves, too.

In today's world, we increasingly speak via forms of writing: twittering, emailing, blogging, IMing, and so forth. In general, these communications fall more in line with the spirit of verbal communication than formal written and published communication. We must protect---no, we must respect the existing protections, of the right to speak freely, openly, even opinionatedly, occasionally with invective.

The courts, schools, employers and rest who believe that speaking out negatively or critically should bring solid and legal punishment and restrictions need a remedial course in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Amendments.

Freedom to speak doesn't mean "free to speak only so long as everyone will like what you have to say."

It means free. to. speak.

Do I think people need to self-monitor and employ discretion, and keep in mind that the expanded opportunity to speak and be heard that the online world provides doesn't mean say anything?

Absolutely.

We should always consider issues we write about carefully, especially if they involve others. We should keep respect uppermost in our minds. We should use it, not abuse it.

But that's individual.

And it needs to be left up to the individual.

This means some individuals will abuse the medium and the right.

But they have the right to do that.

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.
MOMocrats