Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fool's Rules: A Hump Day Hmm for 4-30-08 about Rules, Fairness and Consequences

Bursting beyond the boundaries

When she rides her bike, she'll amble along for a bit beside you, but then she'll thrust forward in a burst of speed, eager to be independent and out front. Her legs pump furiously, her bike a blur of pastel, the pink and purple streamers straight out from her handle bars. Her world is one of rules: stop and wait, look for cars, stay with us, don't get too far ahead, need to leave on time, sit quietly at your desk...a seemingly neverending list. But in that moment, she is motion and air and nothing more, boundaries are falling as far behind her as her parents. She already dreams of the day when she has her own house. She aches for the time that she owns her own life, and her mother aches to never tell her that this time--childhood---is the best she'll get of that. The freer you are, the more you owe elsewhere.

Irritating injustice

Her teacher says her greatest asset is her sense of fairness, and that this normally quiet child will speak out loudly against injustice. In fact, the teacher said in a conference once, "I'd never heard her speak at all until one day she told one child to be kind to another one."

"There is no bullying in this classroom," the teacher told her parents, "So long as she is on the job." In a quieter aferthought, the teacher added, "You can't get away with any inconsistency or inequity, either." Her parents know this, and also that it's not exactly meant admiringly. They know already all too well how some people might miss inequity until it is pointed out to them, and generally, people don't like to notice it.

She suffers, this child, with her scales and measures. Her heart is tender and kind, easily bruised, but it is also strong, which it needs to be to play in concert with her fierce drive for justice. There is a need for her in this world, but she aches fulfilling it, and her mother aches to know the cost her Robin Hood genes will extract in her life.

No light shines brighter, though, than the torch in this child's soul.

Unlikable unfairness

She watches people break the rules and pay different prices for it, or none at all. She sees that not everyone is held to the same rules, or not held in the same way to the rules. So far, she is only catching the little things: somebody took a friend's bike, her sister has more dresses, the pancakes are different sizes, Mom has the chipped glass, Girl A always gets picked first in school yard games, Boy B gets in trouble every day but Boy C is just as naughty but never gets caught. So far, she is only noticing the surface actions. She aches to understand these differences and aches more to right the wrongs. Her mother aches in unhappy expectation of the day when the girl begins asking more why and less what and how, but aches more for the day when the girl quits asking why.

Her mother knows all too well how unlikable unfairness can be. She knows that most people don't allow themselves to get worked up over injustice, and thus can't allow others to, either. It's a cat in a canvas bag, the feeling---feeling a burn of injustice and knowing the binding of expectation to not get twisted knickers.

And so...she aches with and for this child, who sees the rules all too clearly, much too clearly for her own good. Often lacking her own answers, she is at a loss for how to explain it to her questioning child. There is only one thing to say sometimes, "Life's just not fair, baby. Fair isn't really a state of being, it's more a place you visit sometimes, like to ride a Ferris wheel. All you can do is be grateful for the good, and keep it in mind more."

The rules of the game

Do you follow them? Do you break them? Do you pay attention to them, and how others use or abuse them? What rules matter to you and which ones will you break?

Tell us what you think of rules...and what happens when we do and don't follow them...



Note: The title is inspired by a Thoreau quote, although I always found him a bit impractical and thought Emerson had the better way of it.

"Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it."

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American naturalist, poet and philosopher.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

MOMocrats EXCLUSIVE with Barack Obama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Glennia Campbell, Managing Editor
glennia.campbell@gmail.com
http://momocrats.typepad.com/

Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama answers MOMocrats "The Questions We Wish the Debates had asked"

MOMocrats step up where mainstream media and traditional debates let the American public down, "Things we wish they'd asked in the debates..."

Palo Alto, CA -- April 30, 2008 -- Recently, MOMocrats asked the Democratic Presidential candidates the questions we all wish reporters or moderators had asked in any interview or debate. Today, Senator Barack Obama sent back his answers to the MOMocrats' questions. This is the latest example of the influence political blogging groups are showing in the presidential campaign.

The most recent debate between the Democratic candidates was disappointing to most citizens. We felt that the questions were directed more towards mud slinging between the candidate rather than substantive questions about domestic and foreign policy. So the MOMocrats and their readers came up with a list of "Questions We Wish ABC Had Asked." Then we submitted them to the candidates.

In a MOMocrats exclusive, Barack Obama answers the questions that should have been asked during the last debate. Click here to read our interview, in which he finally gets to discuss the issues, not his apparel or acquaintances.

"We were really frustrated with the questions that were asked in the last debate so we came up with a list of questions from our contributors and readers," said MOMocrats Managing Editor Glennia Campbell. "We appreciated that the Obama campaign took our questions seriously and answered them thoroughly."

We haven't heard from the Clinton campaign yet, but the MOMocrats invitation for Senator Clinton to weigh in remains open.

The MOMocrats are savvy, politically active moms dedicated to putting a Democrat in the White House. You can read more about them at MOMocrats.

Provocative Hannah Montana? It's not about prudery, nudity or appealing to an older audience

Joy Behar is a sick, sick woman.

She thinks that Miley Cyrus needed to drop and bare in order to appeal to an older audience. I heard her words myself.

That's appalling.

Miley Cyrus is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. She doesn't need to appeal to anyone who needs to see suggestive photos of CHILDREN.

Was it porn?

No.

Was it inappropriate?

Absolutely.

Miley is a lovely young girl and doesn't need to pose wearing a sheet wrapped around her apparently nude body as if...as if...

I'm a mother of daughters. I know art. I even know nude art. I know beautiful photography. I'm a big fan of it for ADULTS.

Of which Miley is not one.

If that was one of my girls? The news headline would not be "Miley poses nude for Vanity Fair." The news headline would be "Star's mother wrings famous photographer's neck."

Annie Liebovitz, you should feel ashamed. She is a lovely young girl, and you should have highlighted the youth, not the sexuality.

It's not a "beautiful, natural portrait." I know fifteen year old girls. They---we--- don't pose clutching sheets round our naked bodies. That's not natural. That's suggestive.

We all know what it is suggesting. It's disingenuous to say otherwise.

That's everything that's wrong, right there.

We don't need to sexualize girls.

I want men to know: every time you ogle a young girl, or stare at a large chest, you encourage another girl to alter herself---possibly surgically---because it's conveyed that girls are sexual objects.

Sexuality is natural and ought to be developed in a healthy way.

Naked in a sheet on a magazine cover isn't natural or healthy, not at fifteen.

My heart breaks for poor Miley, especially after reading this:

The 15-year-old Hannah Montana actress said she regretted the provocative shots, which show her topless and clutching just a sheet to hide her modesty.

Miley, whose wholesome image has netted her £7 million, said: "It was supposed to be 'artistic' but now I feel so embarrassed."

She added: "I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologise to my fans who I care so deeply about."

This sensationalism isn't over prudery or nudity. It's not about a public that can't appreciate art. It's over unnecessary sexualization of a young girl.

I noted that the photos and stripping happened after her father left the set.

My heart breaks for him, too.

** There is no photo here. I won't promote it further.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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What's so special about today is...

1. My friend Kyla has taken time to go to Austin and speak before the elected representatives of the great state of Texas about the trouble with our existing health care system, and to implore them to choose conscientiously to ensure that all who need it have health care. She's there today on her own behalf, but also on behalf of others in her shoes. Yesterday a friend and I kvetched about rising food and gas prices, and she, despite working three jobs, admitted she's worried she's going to have to go back on food stamps. None of her jobs provide any benefits or health insurance. She's an individual, but there are a lot of people in a similar position. In fact, if you only count children, there are 1.5 million in similar position, without insurance. One point five million.

Kyla rocks. Thank you, Kyla.

You can read her speech at her site by clicking here, or at MOMocrats by clicking here.

If you go over to MOMocrats, sign up for the fab giveaway!

2. It's the day before Hump Day!

Mamma Loves suggested "The Rules." Call them rules, call them mores, or maybe even call them ethics. In general, we all understand there are certain rules and most of us try to follow them. Something to do with being good. But...are we all playing by the same rules? Do we all have to answer to the same rules? Are the rules applied equitably, and enforced equitably? Are we even all playing the same game? Are you a rule follower? You tell me.

Note: I've disabled comments because this is just informational and I don't want anybody to feel obliged, but if you want to say something to me, you can join my kvetching about Smurfs, Serfs, and how things some days just go about as crazy as possible. I love to hear about the crazy that happens outside my life and house.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Monday, April 28, 2008

A series of unfortunate events (with a fortunate twist)


The monkey, her wrenches, and the works. (Available here.)

Today...monkeys are throwing wrenches into my works. It's 8:30 in the morning and already shaping up to be one of those days. You know, one of those days---like every other one, only for some reason today you want to bang your head on the wall because that seems to offer relief of some sort.

* When I walked into the downstairs half bath, I could immediately tell the Smurfs had broken in to our house because they left little blue handprints all over the wall, sink, mirror, doorknob and door. I'm not sure what they were after in the half bath, but apparently it had something to do with the hand soap, which was mostly gone.

So...I cleaned the bathroom.

* The kitchen fairies must have been scared away by the Smurfs because when I finally made it to the kitchen, the dishwasher was still full of dishes (clean at least), and the sink was still full of dishes (dirty, sadly). Also, nobody cleaned the Whatever off the bottom of the refrigerator or the crumbs out of the toaster oven. I'd fire them except they didn't register any contact information other than "1 Imagination Street" on their job application form.

So...I cleaned the kitchen.

* Our personal chef didn't show up for work today so I also scrambled like a short order cook to feed the children, who were chirping like starving baby birds. At 7:30 on the dot, I sent the 6.5 year old upstairs to get ready for school. I called out her usual string of tasks, "pottywashhandwashfacebrushteethbrushhairclotheson...then downstairs and SHOES!" But in case the sound of my voice is like a dog whistle---which it often is to everyone in my family---I have it on a chart, too, with illustrations and words. Sadly, my daughter seems to suffer from the same chromosomal abnormality her father has, which manifests as the following:

-- selective hearing
-- selective vision
-- lack of short term memory
-- LYING or OMITTING because the TASK is not as fun as what she WANTS TO DO instead

I happened to not realize this in the chaos of 45 things going insane at the time we were trying to walk out the door so I did not see the jam smears on her face and her flyaway hair until we got to the school, you know, 15 seconds before the tardy bell.

I told her to check in with her teacher then excuse herself to go to the bathroom and clean herself up as she was meant to do at home before leaving the house. She swore she did brush her teeth but you'll pardon me if I shoulder a reasonable amount of disbelief.

My thoughts on the matter? YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!

When does "desire to be hygienic" kick in? Is it a case of you either have it or you don't?

She walked into school, a dejected form, like a kicked puppy but I forced myself to be unsympathetic. She'll have consequences until we can be sure she is committed to hygiene in her morning routine.

So...I start the day as Meanest Mom Ever.

* My other distraction was walking outside to the driveway and seeing the door to my car wide open. In point of fact it was Patience's door. Left open. And out of four people not one noticed so the door was open all night, in the drizzle of yesterday, with my iPod and other expensive things, not to mention the car itself, available to all nocturnal wildlife, including thieving teenagers who roam the streets in packs at night.

Luckily yesterday was Sunday. Let me explain my logic there. Most people here attend church so it's possible the roaming teens are Baptists and had the fear of God put into them, which I theorize has about a 14 hour lifespan. This 14 hours period overlapped with my car and the engraved invitation to steal it and the things in it the wide open door---and overhead light---issued all night.

This is the only explanation I have for how not one thing, including the car itself, was missing, nor have I found any pee anywhere in the car (this, by the way, I attribute to cats and raccoons, not teens).

Divine intervention is also the explanation I have for how my car started when I inserted the key and turned it on.

So...I breathed a sigh of relief.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Friday, April 25, 2008

Our town: the front end of beyond (with photos)

I make a lot of snarky comments about the city north of me. I've been called out on this. But, I am a bit of a square peg in a round hold here. For example... I don't like cars and driving in a place that abhors public transportation. I'm a blue in a red zone. I'm a winter person in summer land. I'm a liberal arts person in an engineering and medical job market.

But of all the round places to land in, this one is pretty good.

Houston is second only to New York City for culture and arts, including performing arts. In fact, NYC is the only city that has more theater seats than Houston. We have incredibly talented, world-renowned resident performing arts companies that perform in architectural masterpieces.

A long time ago, the power elite of Houston decided to invest in the arts.

That means our museums, zoos, and galleries are top rate, as well.

Even my area has thriving arts. My area consists of a cluster of small towns, most of which have populations of about 2000 people, give or take. Nevertheless, we have an area ballet company, theater company, symphony, and even an incredible arts center. All have enormous community outreach.

The classes, camps, and programs for families and children are incredible. On any given weekend my children can enjoy learning about nature (we also have a large nature preserve), art, or space.

Yes, space. Thanks to the largest area employer, this is an diverse and multi-cultural community. Without even leaving the main road, I can find groceries and restaurants from Greek to Asian to Mexican. Within one mile I can see signs in at least four languages.

Music is king here---especially jazz, blues, and southern style rock. The seaside boardwalk offers different live music. This weekend, for example, is zydeco.

Seaside.

This is a coastal town, as are the adjacent towns. It provides an easy-going, laid back undercurrent. And amazing wild life, a lot of which is human.

You can go to the post office on Monday and run into the most incredible neighbors:



The dog, for the record, (and his person) support Obama in '08.

Surprising visitors can drop by for lunch on Wednesday:



On Wednesday you can also say goodbye to the cardinal nestlings you've been privileged to watch in a nest right outside the living room window...for a brief, but busy, ten days (parents of newborns...you could have a baby bird, and trust me, it's more work):



March and early April are nearly perfect here, with the green lightening and deepening, and the weather beckoning you outside all the time.

It's beginning to heat up, though, with temperatures solidly into the 80s, now. The spring blossoms are shooting off allergens into the air, and summer is staring us in the face. The ozone issues are heating up (no pun intended). So before it all goes back into snark, I thought I'd share a little of the magic.

Have a great weekend.

(Notes: Next week's Hump Day Hmmm. Mamma Loves suggested "The Rules." Call them rules, call them mores, or maybe even call them ethics. In general, we all understand there are certain rules and most of us try to follow them. Something to do with being good. But...are we all playing by the same rules? Do we all have to answer to the same rules? Are the rules applied equitably, and enforced equitably? Are we even all playing the same game? Are you a rule follower? You tell me.

And I will try to do blog visiting today or this weekend. I've been reading and have even opened posts to comment (as your traffic meters might indicate---someone in Texas had your blog opened for 16 hours, LOL) but have been caught up with many demands this week.)


Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Convicted for the seditious act of mommyblogging


It's true: I not only bought my kids this toy housecleaning set, but I also sometimes make them put it to good use. And then I blogged about it. Oh the exploitative horror.

It's buzzing around the blogosphere again: oh ye hale and hearty mommybloggers, blogging so assiduously about your offspring, what harm do you do? HERE BE DRAGONS!

I read the most recent mommyblogging article on the topic of the ethics of parents blogging. Although at first read the article seems comprehensive and contemplative, on second consideration, it struck me as stale. And hyperbolic.

I suspect the writer reworked the material to fit her thesis. That's a no-no in science, but also in reporting. You can't---shouldn't---edit and force material to fit the headline you want. That's...dishonest.

The problem in large, to me, is that word exploitative. It sours the reader, and casts a pall on the subjects covered in the article.

Is blogging truly exploitative?

By focusing once again on that same facet, the article was missing a lot of really relevant---and more interesting---angles to blogging, which is something I've noticed happens frequently in traditional media editorials about blogging (excepting one really good article I just read today about Bossy).

Why not instead explore the amazing community, positive growth and outreach, and potential for family support that blogging offers, instead of tackling the negative cost of those positives?

Why does traditional media always write about blogging (and most things) from the negative or downside point perspective?

Stale---Hyperbolic---Pandering

The article began with a semi-whiny "I told you so" theme. Citing first Steve Almond's resignation from blogging, it pointed out big name bloggers are seeing the light, acknowledging the downside of blogging so personally about themselves...and thus are quitting.

Unfortunately, after the Steve story, the article simply threw on the table the same old questions that have been asked since I first learned about blogging---which is not to say that they aren't good questions to consider. But I think we need a fresh constructive approach. The quotes the author edited and selected only rehashed the issues, without providing some of the really good thoughts and ideas I know bloggers have for how to engage in the rewarding and enriching side of blogging without being exploitative.

In fact, that's one of the big differences between successful blogging and traditional media: successful bloggers must be part of the solution whereas traditional media continues to slouch in the nattering on about the problem.

Fitting the material to the headline: now that's exploitative

Additionally, the author sought and cited examples that fit her thesis, which was, "Writing about your daughter's toilet-training misadventures could net you $40,000 a month and a legion of fans. But some mommy and daddy bloggers are quitting the game in fears that their digital confessions have become exploitation."

First, $40,000 is like the Hope diamond level rare superstar blogger rumored income. I believe even really successful bloggers are largely in the low four digits.

Second, not all parent bloggers have missed the potential for trouble through their blogging. I know and read the bloggers quoted in the article. They are fresh, interesting and mindful writers. Along with many other intelligent and compelling writers, Catherine Connors has taken time, through BlogRhet, to explore the ethics and principles of blogging. They do share personal information on their blogs, but I suspect the author selected the sentences that would indicate a darker and deeper concern than they actually feel (and they can correct me if I'm wrong).

I don't see any indication that these people plan to quit, and if they did, I suspect it would be because of more than one factor.

I believe this because most of those bloggers haven't changed their ways. Why should they? Their way works! Bloglebrities are such because they are titallating. They write well and interestingly, and most importantly, engagingly. They are the frequently and repeatedly cited because they are famous, and they are famous because they are read widely, and they are read widely because their way works.

The ones who have changed...well, the change was largely to quit blogging.

Please tell me there is an ocean of possibilities between these two islands called Extreme.

I believe there are.

Mindful blogging---still revealing, but how unethical or different is that?

I find that most parent bloggers I read are fairly circumspect and respectful, of adults and children alike. Many parent bloggers limit images of their children, use pseudonyms, or only share generally relatable experiences---versus too intimate. This may not be a preventative but it is a safeguard. It shows mindfulness (which will help in the defense later, if it's needed).

In fact, just a couple of months ago, I hosted a Hump Day Hmm and the topic was talking about others on your blog and the rules bloggers have for that. I wrote about 7 simple guidelines I follow, and 18 other bloggers weighed in with their own guidelines, as did quite a few commenters.

We do keep effect and privacy in mind. At least most of us do.

Can we say the same for past generations and verbal story traditions?

The past comes back to haunt us whether written or verbal

Children (their life, times, and experiences) are, to some degree, and have always been, to some degree, considered public. Writing it down and publishing it on the Internet is of course a much larger and far-reaching act than sharing potty stories at the playground.

But who among us has ever been allowed to utterly forget the Big Moments of childhood?

Not me.

I have never lived down:

* the time I "polished" the coffee table with my dad's expensive scotch (age 2)

* the time I flooded my mom's bathroom because I turned on the sink and plugged the drain and then never turned off the water (age 3)

* how my best friend Steven Coffee and I were so inseparable that we even went to the bathroom together (age 3 and 4)

* my circus act on top of the swing set (tightrope walking) (age 6ish)

* the time the cat followed me home and stayed for 10 years (my dad is still sure I picked her up and carried her versus she ran after my bike---my version is true, by the way, his is assumption and we all know what that is) (age 8)

* totaling my 1974 Datsun 260Z in a spectacular launch off the road, followed by a flip and three rolls, only to land upside down, 10 feet down, off the road (may also have caused some friends who witnessed it to pee their pants) (also, not my fault) (age 16)

(Note to Flavia, my sister: Do you see how I left out your exploits? I want that noted. For...points, or something. Ditto to the brother.)

These stories, despite not being written down or published on the Internet (until now), survive. They still come up with regularity at family gatherings. And...I have survived.

Of course, the telling is limited to family and close friends, some of whom may have been there themselves, and may play a part in the story.

What I don't know for sure is how many times my parents have pulled out these tales to entertain or commiserate with their broad community of friends and acquaintances. There could be teachers or parents anywhere in the US who know I used to race my white kitten around the house in a Barbie camper.

I'm okay with that. I hope it gave them a laugh to hear it or some relief to know that their child was not a future sociopath for tormenting animals.

I hope my children are as generous with me, despite the fact that I have posted about them on my blog.

However, they may not be, and I ought to be prepared for this, as Andrea sagely pointed out in the post that motivated me to write this one, "We need to be honest about the fact that we don't know what our kids are going to think about this or how it is going to affect them, and not blithely affect a public stance of "I'm sure it won't cause any lasting damage" that is based essentially on wishful thinking. We need to be ready to apologize or make reparation if in fact it does hurt them in some way, down the road."

I am and I will.

And, like other bloggers, I might alter how I do things or even one day quit. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

In the meantime, I think it's high time for traditional media to stop cuting quotes to fit the headline and begin reaching out to blogging with sincere understanding that it's much more than just a "gabby, tell-all past-time" in large part. It's a business and brand and groups from PR hack to venture capital flacks and even the Wall Street Journal are beginning to take it seriously and see the potential.

We might share stories---even personal ones---but this isn't a new tradition. Countless magazines and media sources have done this same, and have built empires from it. People want---and need---to hear from other people. The Internet has allowed that on a grander, and more day-to-day scale than ever before, hence the popular rise of blogging. Whether the blogger intends to become commercial, go pro, or stay small and amateur, simply sharing and even potentially earning doesn't make it exploitative.

As wikipedia says, "Most often, the word exploitation is used to refer to economic exploitation; that is, the act of using another person's labor without offering them an adequate compensation."

There is exploitation going on within blogging, but I don't think the egregious example is parents and children. I thin it's big business looking to use blogger's efforts to pimp their product without compensation.

Maybe the next traditional media reporter to tackle blogging can examine how and why companies and even traditional media are happy to ride for free on blogger's backs...and why bloggers agree to it.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Truth is a many splintered thing---the Hump Day Hmm for April 23, 2008

The first thing I knew about truth was that it had many faces, was not exclusive of embellishment, and was invariably subjective and typically relative.

It was also cause for more battles as religion and politics. That's because, I think, the real battle---even when it comes to religion and politics---is over what is true.

For some, truth is solid, as hard as a diamond. To these people, truth is incontrovertible. It is a known thing, obvious. That four-legged, solid surface object in the kitchen is a table. This thing is true.

For others, truth is slightly more malleable, self-evident, soft. That stuffed object you sit on is maybe a sofa, maybe a couch, perhaps a love seat, or a settee...it depends upon what you know, what you think, how you experience it.

The first group is deeply offended by embellishment, unnecessary add-ons. They find this to be misleading, which is their softening how they feel, which is that you are lying. These people, whether they know it or not, subscribe to the correspondence theory. At least to a degree. ;)

The second group understands that embellishment is not simply reporting, but is also relating: here is what I believe to be true and here is my personal experience of that truth. In this, subjectivity is assumed on both sides. These people are more constructivist, in theory.

I think we all know which group I fall into.

The intriguing thing is that when someone is sharing a story---a personal story---to people who were not there, the listeners often prefer a story that relates personal experience. This usually means a more poetic and less prosaic retelling of events.

The other intriguing thing is how different the expectation is when one or more listener participated in the event. No two people saw or experienced the same thing, even if they reacted similarly or came away with similar conclusions---and yet, each individual is usually convinced that his or her version is the actual one. Thus, too much personalization or embellishment...well, it can prompt a negative reaction.

Why do some have such an attachment to their perceived "just the facts, ma'am" version of events and experience?

I don't know.

The bigger question is: why are we so convinced that our version is the truth?

My own personal truth(s) change with time, age, and place in life. I find myself now letting go of many things I have always believed to be true. I made decisions and acted based on these beliefs. I can't say I necessarily regret the choices, but I do regret the ideas behind them, in some cases.

Once upon a time I decided not to go to law school. I thought I wasn't good enough, couldn't get in, would not do well, and would compare unfavorably to my peers. I might have overcome that, except someone whose opinion really mattered to me told me, "Julie, you are way too idealistic for law, too philosophical. You'd never do." So I believed my insecurities to be true, and I let it go and moved on.

The truth---the truth?---is that law school at that time in life probably would have been a bad idea, but not because of ability or lack thereof, but for a variety of much less objective reasons: financing, burn out, other interests to wade through, etc.

However, in some ways, I wish I hadn't excluded it forever, cut it from my life plan. If I had considered that the timing was bad rather than me, I might have left room for it in my life, and might have, at the right time, given it a shot.

I have always carried a lodestone about how I view and feel about the truth. I find it complicated. Some others often find it simple; at times, they can be exclusive to their own point of view, their own truth. The person who told me that I was not meant for law was so certain: to him, it was simple, incontrovertible.

Thinking back, in his shoes, I would not have been so....point blank. I would have considered many angles, "You've got a keen interest in law and justice. You're bright. You could do it. But...is it the right time? Is this the right application of your passion and interest? Only you can know. Why don't you keep it in mind, but take some time to consider what it is about law careers that appeals to you, and see if you can figure out if law school is the best pursuit of that interest."

When people are involved in an interaction, I find that it's good to establish up front what concept of truth each is operating from. And keep in mind limitations and biases.

That is so much easier to know now, at this age and stage, than at 21, for example, when it seems everyone else is so much more grown up and so much wiser.

I keep falling back on Richard Russo and his thoughts about looking backward as we age, and seeing things through a different lens. It's so true. I have become extremely contemplative at this age and stage. Previously, I have always looked forward, but lately I've begun spending more time in the here and now, and reaching back into the past. In fact, I'm spending a lot of time reaching back into the past, taking out important moments and events, re-examining them, diamonds under a scope. I'm re-evaluating what was true then, and it affects what I find true, now.

I used to worry about a mid-life crisis. I hoped I never lost my mind and made radical changes to my life or went crazy and bought a sports car, or some other myth associate with this time.

Now...now I am grateful for mid-life and crises affiliated with it, and I hope everyone has one.

That is true.

What is your version of the truth?


Note: Today's post in honor of Kyla, who has insisted for an entire week that the table simply is, and is simply a table. To show my reverence for our friendship, I have not once asserted that we have simply decided to agree that the table is and is a table.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If you could...it's Earth Day, and there's trees that need planting

Lined along my driveway are large pots with tiny little trees in them. We're growing them in the hope that they can become strong trees planted where trees are needed.

I know one place that needs trees, and I know a group working to plant them. A billion of them. Would you like to help?

The Atlantic Forest is one of the largest tropical rain forests in the world. However, after decades of clear cutting, expansion, development, and agriculture only seven percent of the original forest remains.

Why are tropical rain forests important to the earth and to people?

Forests regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate. They also store carbon dioxide and release oxygen. One billion people depend directly on the rain forest. In addition to the lifegiving attributes for the entire world, such as water, medicine, and oxygen, rain forests also provide livelihoods and even hydro energy.

It's also home to one of the most diverse collections of plant and animal species.: 23 species of primates, 1,000 species of birds, and over 20,000 species of plants.

What is being done to preserve and restore this essential tropical rain forest?

The Nature Conservancy launched Plant A Billion, which intends to, with partners, plant one billion trees and restore 2.5 million acres of the forest. They hope to accomplish this within seven years.

How will this help?

The Nature Conservancy says that once they've planted the new trees and restored the forest, it should remove 10 million tons of carbon dioxide from the air every year, which is the equivalent of taking two million cars off the road.

They also plan to protect 10 watersheds, provide hydro power to 70 million people, create 20,000 direct jobs and 70,000 indirect jobs.

What can you do?

I joined this initiative by starting a campaign. I hope you'll join in! My goal is $250 for 250 trees. The money goes directly to the Plant a Billion and Nature Conservancy, but we can track it if you click through the widget here:

One dollar, one tree, one planet.

Thank you!

P.S. Post below this one, too. With Hump Day Hmm topic...about truth and lies.

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

Monday, April 21, 2008

Truth: rarely pure and never simple

If you ask Persistence how old she is, she'll tell you she's five. She can't quite bring herself to say six, her sister's age. Is it because her sister holds a claim to that number right now, or is it an inherent talent for hyperbole---knowing exactly where the line is that she shouldn't cross?

On Saturday at a party several of us were laughing with a neighbor, my friend's husband, and he was spinning yarns about his upcoming trip to Italy.

"You need to learn how to lie, Jack," I said, "You go one step past believable. If you'd said you were biking from Paris to Florence, some of us might have partially believed you. But walking?" And we all laughed harder.

"Maybe it's intentional," he told me, "I get in trouble for teasing, so I try to make sure I'm way over the top upfront so nobody even starts to believe me."

Someone reminded me that I must be a very good liar because everyone thinks I'm truthful. I am an excellent liar. World class. Gold medal. I began lying at a very early age. I had to. Then I just never figured out how to be truthful. No, that's not true. I figured out that generally people don't want you to be truthful.

And because I'm contrary, I then switched over to often being truthful.

What's truth, anyway? It's not necessarily honesty, which doesn't preclude lying.

My family has me pegged as the Queen of Hyperbole. When I was a tween or early teen, we drove to Portland to visit my older stepbrother and sister, who had gone to college there and never came back. If you go to Portland, it's easy to see why. But this trip was close to when Mount St. Helens had erupted, and we hiked up Oregon's sister mountain to watch the plumes of smoke still puffing from the shattered crater.

"We hiked to less than a mile from the top," I said later, retelling the story to some people who hadn't gone with us, "And it was so clear, you could see it right in front of you, huge, and smoking, like an angry dragon." The smoke was lighter than I expected, and I waxed more poetically than prosaically about it.

My stepsister couldn't stand it. None of my siblings can. Their life goal with me is to make me prosaic. It's ironic, because in artistic circles I am considered very prosaic and practical. But not in my family, who believe themselves the Snopes to my myths.

My stepsister rolled her eyes and sighed, "Oh Juuuulllllliieeeeee, you make it sound like so much more than it was. We drove to the top parking lot and barely hiked a couple of miles at the most. You could see some smoke but there was nothing dragon-like to it."

Even today, whatever rolls from my lips is suspect and put through the family truth v. doubt-o-meter.

I want to teach my children to not exaggerate when it's not needed, but I also want to foster their strong and deep imaginative streak. Nevertheless, I find, horribly, Snope-like criticisms frogging their way off my tongue anyway.

Yesterday I told Patience, "That's showing off. Don't do things to try to impress people. Just make good choices in life, do your best, be yourself, and that will be impressive enough to the right people."

She had been hamming to get a laugh from the crowd. My insides turned to molten lava when I saw.

She did switch to making good choices, but I worried about her motive: was it to appease and please me, or to do the right thing? Will she make the right choices when my back is turned, at least most of the time, at least when it really matters? Or will she lie in her bed at night, regretting behavior over the course of the day, filled with the bitter reflux of self-loathing?

Can I ever be easy as a parent?

My lack of ease extends to her sister's lying, as well. Persistence lies for many reasons, but she does it easily, often, well and earlier than her sister did. She is very sincere when she tells people she is five. She will not budge from that position.

She is learning her letters and lying, which her sister did at five.

So what is truth?

Note: This Hump Day Hmm...talk about truth, honesty and lying---yourself, your kids, from a personal or parenting point of view, how you deal with it and how important it is, as well as loopholes or any other aspect you want to cover.

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

Friday, April 18, 2008

The world is somewhere between mad demented and mad awesome...a wrap-up of the week

It's been a wild week in nearly every avenue. Here's what I've seen that might intrigue, interest, disgust, enthrall and/or appall you:

The good:

Earth Day ramp up has motivated some really fantastic things.

At Moms Speak Up, I joined The Nature Conservancy's campaign to Plant a Billion. One tree, one dollar...and every dollar counts. Click over here to check out the information and join in the campaign!

Aimee Greeblemonkey launched a project near and dear to my heart (for those of you who know how I feel about art, kid art, and art in school, as well as the environment). Inspired by her son who hosted a backyard art auction and a reader suggestion, she launched Kid Art Auction for Earth Day 2008.

Izzy asked if I would take on Moms Speak Up as Editor-in-Chief, which I agreed to do. I'm currently seeking motivated writers who are passionate about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern. There is no minimum requirement for submissions, but since I'm looking to keep the site moving and growing, I do prefer a degree of prolific. Cross-posts welcome. :)

Also, did you see that Izzy was mentioned at the Wall Street Journal, along with other "moms who blog?" We're a force, who I think mainstream media are beginning (finally!) to reckon with! Sue Shellenbarger says so in her article, "The Blogger Mom, In Your Face."

The bad:

It has finally happened: a book has been published that I think is so dreadful it ought to be burned.

I know. I did not think it possible either.

I've seen some questionable topics published, read some really badly written books, and passed over some books that made me go, "WTF?!?!"

But I've never, ever advocated burning a book. Until now.

Exhibit A:


A book for moms (moms! Just moms? Not dads?) to explain the cosmetic surgery process to their little girls (girls! Just girls? Not boys?).

This book also caused me to utterly suspend my normal "endeavor to be open-minded and fair and balanced." I went straight to outraged feminist moralist motherist.

Cosmetic surgery to "perfect" one's self makes me sad. There. I said it. It does. Modeling it to one's daughter, to demonstrate why dangerous elective surgery is necessary so Mommy can appear closer to Barbie-slut-ho perfection through a book that is supposed to normalize it makes me shudder.

In the book, Mommy explains to her little girl how pregnancy ruined her sexy and gorgeous looks (I'm paraphrasing in a really pejorative way, as I am sure you guessed). She tells her daughter that in order for her skin-tight pants and belly-revealing shirts to look better, in their land of palm trees (Miami? LA? Houston?), she needs a breast augmentation (that means bigger boobs, sweetheart), a tummy tuck (to remove that unsightly bit of post-pregnancy puckering), and a nose job (not sure how that's related exactly but Mommy feels the strong need to fix her nose).

Mommy and Sweetie meet with Dr. Michael, who strongly resembles a rejected Hall of Justice hero, who, failing the superhero gig, turned to plastic surgery instead. Hey, at least he's using his powers for good...right?

The real Dr. Michael (Dr. Michael Salzhauer) was inspired to write the book when a large number of his patients came to appointments with children, who were confused and worried about the surgery.

Clue: BECAUSE THAT'S RATIONAL. One SHOULD BE scared of surgery, especially unnecessary surgery. It carries RISKS. As one who has been through a number of surgeries, I can't imagine ever opting to do it unless it was absolutely medically necessary.

But instead of teaching children to value themselves and their bodies as is, and to trust their instincts, Dr. Michael believes it is relevant to teach them to be hunky dory with Mommy going under the knife to (and I quote the book), come back not just, "...different, my dear---prettier!"

Because, of course, that should be every woman's goal.

Unfortunately, the Newsweek article I read about this quoted a child expert who agrees that Dr. Michael is on the right track. Elizabeth Berger, psychiatrist for children and author of "Raising Kids With Character," said she didn't want to seem anti-cosmetic surgery and thought the book was a good idea because if women do plan to have cosmetic surgery, it's important that they talk about it with their children.

Hey, Dr. Berger, it's okay to appear to be against something, especially if your career is to advocate, protect and help children.

Hey, moms, if you feel compelled to get cosmetic surgery, who am I to say otherwise. I get it, each to her own.

But please, if you can't do other than downplay what it is, really, then please, hide it from your kids. I fight every day to keep my kids from thinking they need to reach some arbitrary state of physical perfection in order to be worthwhile. I hope you'd want to do the same. If not, at least please keep it to yourself, okay?

You guys know I'm vain. But you also know that I halt my vanity as best I can at the "making the choice to be healthy" line. Usually.

But when I ponder that elective cosmetic surgery is reaching record numbers, I feel disheartened at the state of esteem and how women view themselves. How can I ever teach my children, in the face of such a culture, that it's not how you look that is most important but who you are and what you do?

For more about what I think we need to make of the natural changes in our bodies, click here.

The political

The MOMocrats have been busy as bees. And it's paying off with lots of national attention from the Democratic presidential candidates' campaigns and keystone journalists such as Jay Rosen. We've covered everything from personal appearances by Obama (at the now infamous "bittergate" fundraiser in San Francisco, where MOMocrat Glennia heard it first-hand) to live blogging the debate. Now we're collecting the questions ABC should have asked at the debate. Come read and add your voice.

Speaking of "bittergate" my own Senator, John Cornyn, chapped my hide royally by telling me that I'm not bitter. Oh yes I am, Senator, and here's why: you don't get to tell my I'm just dandy when my bank statement tells me otherwise.

The ugly

Who is to say what art is or isn't? But can we really call this art? I call it...well, unethical and immoral sounds too milquetoasty. Horrific. There. It's not art, it's a horror show. I hate to give it more attention, but now and again (in two cases in this very post) my Self-Righteous bone gets poked.

The mad awesome

I want to leave this post on a good note, as it began.

Whymommy got some great news: no evidence of disease. So happy for you, Susan!

The EPA tightened the ozone levels allowed. One step closer to cleaner air! This was, in part, I think, due to the enormous public response at their hearings. Maybe using my words added to this.

Patience keeps moving up the reading levels. I caught her reading a chapter book to her little sister, who was listening, rapt. It has inspired Persistence to learn to read, or try to. The two of them are growing ladybugs for our garden. Next week is our consultation about how to convert our yard into a wildlife habitat.

Last but not least, I survived a day in the nursery at the school/church. Yes, me in charge of over a dozen kids (with another parent). And we all came out fine.

Have a great weekend!

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Green Hump Day Hmm 4-16-08: Talking about the environment

Thanks for participating in the "green talk" Hump Day Hmm. There's no limit to links here---old or new---and you can put in as many links to environmental-related posts as you like!



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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What are you supposed to write about on Wednesday and the next week?

Earth Day 2008 on April 22!

Are you struggling for topics to write about on your blog?

Or have you got plenty planned and in the works?

Either way, come sit by me and let's talk about hot topics for the next week: Earth Day 2008.

This Wednesday's Hump Day topic asks you to share your views about caring for our planet. What do you believe about ecology---preserving and conserving? How did you come to those views?

As usual, I'll leave the post up for a couple of days. Just write the post, link back to here, and come add your link in to Mr. Linky.

I'm also scouting for great posts for Moms Speak Up. I'm looking for great information, news, updates, green tips and more. There is a lot of environmental and safe product news and information about there, as well as ideas for greener lifestyles, and crucial health care research and knowledge, and more. Every part of our life touches the earth in some way. Let's write about it!

Have you written about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics or many other hot topics of concern? Will you? If so, send me your links at j pippert at g mail dot com and I will check it out!

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Visual highlights of the weekend and BOOKS! A meme


Photo of us with Congressman Nick Lampson after a luncheon.Photo credit: Colleen O'Brien, reporter, Friendswood Reporter News



Brunch with the fab Liv and Jenny.



And a ton of birthday parties.

Our weekend was nonstop---which can be good, and exhausting. Also, it sets a bad precedent with kids, who will now think every weekend revolves around MegaFun.

In brief:

* As always, an interesting lunch with Congressman Nick Lampson. The Democrats are the truly family friendly party. It's not a euphemism for "live according to our morality or we'll make you by law." It means, "we know people have families and we want to be supportive of that." So keep that in mind, my friends, as the election draws closer. Mr. Lampson's chief of staff could not have been kinder or more helpful in accommodating me showing up with Persistence. Mr. Lampson could not have been nicer to her, even earning her trust and a smile. The other guests were also very nice, and gave her lots of positive attention, which she thrived on. She was extremely well-behaved, which only endeared her to us all more.

* Liv, Jenny and I met for brunch and a great time. I'm not sure I can recount all of it (or any of it) but I think we decided to ship me to San Francisco in a crate where we'd build a gazebo teepee for Jenny in the lobby of a hotel. And maybe Jenny and Liv are dating now. I'm not sure. We definitely broke bread together. UPDATE! Liv broke the big Jenny secret on her blog. I want the record to reflect that I kept this secret out of consideration for all of her readers, but also because she threatened me with a curse of daily tantrums by my three year old. Oh. Wait. how was that threatening again?

* Four birthday parties, an art class, and an initial meeting of our senate district delegates and alternates, as well as other motivated parties wrapped up the rest of our time.

BOOKS! A meme

A while back Arkie Mama tagged me for a book meme. As usual, I'm not following the rules. I'm supposed to turn to page 123 and write a paragraph but instead I'm going to tell you the last three books I read and contradict myself with coincidence.

1. Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. This book and I had a rough start. Have you ever had a rough start and then, in the end, found that sometimes the bet things in life are a challenge? That's the outcome of this book. After the halfway point, it felt like the best of classic Russo and I dragged it out, loathe to have the book end. It had so many complex elements to it, and is such a rich reflection of life, that I can't begin to describe it. But if you like Russo---and you probably should, or at least read one of his books because he will probably go down in history as one of the greatest writers of this time period---definitely read this book.

Point: One character lives in Venice, and a central revolving point is two other characters planning to travel to Venice. Venice is, in fact, a bit of a character in the book.

2. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. I picked this one up at the same time as the Russo because they were side by side (for some reason) and both new releases by authors I really like. It didn't occur to me that this book was set in Venice, as well, and was about Venice. Classic Berendt, with brief forays into the characters and culture of a town.

3. The Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon. Also set in Venice. Hands down one of the best mystery series I've ever read (am reading). I can't stop. I've read about five and have quite a few in front of me. Leon is from New Jersey but has lived abroad for along time. She captures the air and character of Venice amazingly well---the sort of insight as only an outsider who has melted into a culture can do. Her main character, Guido Brunetti, is charmingly realistic and likable, without an iota of perfection. Initially I struggled against some of the Venetian police ways and was perplexed by some local customs, but she expects that and somehow seamlessly weaves in explanations, without being obvious or patronizing. A must read.

I honestly had no plan to read a series of books all set in and about Venice; it just happened. But how interesting to see the different takes three brilliant authors have on the town.

What are you reading?

Fun links:

Make sure to check out the Just Posts for March!

And last post (Her Bad Mother's writing prompt) I didn't pull my link list together, so here it is better late than never. For more posts on the Prom theme, click these...

Mrs. Flinger
Oh The Joys
Mamalogues
Mean Girls Need Not Apply
A Fine Frenzy
Assertagirl
Julie Pippert
Mamma Loves
Man Prom!
Alpha Dogma
Don Mills Diva
Supermama

Note: I'm flat out this week, again, especially after having Persistence home all week last week. I have to fit two weeks into one. I'll do my best to drop by and visit you, I promise.

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

Whilst introspective and angsty, may as well talk about high school (again)

High school. To play upon Chris Bell's brilliant renouncement of Tom De Lay at the recent Senate District 11 caucus, high school is like herpes: the angst that keeps on giving.

Lest I sound like some loser or moron who agonizes over something that was half my lifetime ago (or so), I didn't really think about high school for years and years and years. I'd add another 'years' but it just makes me feel old(er).

But high school has resurfaced in my mind recently and there are a few good reasons.

It's on my mind today because Her Bad Mother (who could use some warm fuzzies today, I think) started a writing prompt about prom. Yes, that's my prom photo above. It's the only one of me without the boy in it, and it would be no good to make him an innocent bystander victim by including him in this blog.

(My prom, in brief, as if you care: Went with boy was dating at time; was broken-hearted because I felt ditched by good friend who went with her boyfriend's crowd; rallied because went with other friends; dropped mom's diamond earrings down sink; saved the ass of friend who ditched me when I caught her before she went out into lobby with dress tucked into her pantyhose and she swore I was her BFF; the highlight of the night was dancing by myself to Dancing By Myself. It was just another day and dance with everyone in pouffy taffeta with frouffant hair, the same old people I saw at school every day, only drunker, and so fraught with anticipation and expectation that there was no way it could be as enjoyed as a regular event. I remember thinking: I cannot wait to blow this joint.)

But high school is on my mind now because it's my twenty year reunion.

Twenty years.

Oy.

Was it really that long ago?

That---this---brings up a wealth of pondering the present against perusals of the past.

In a conversation about high school reunions today, I ended with the question, "But can one weekend reunion really provide the closure and relieve the leftover complexes?"

Isn't that sort of creating another prom-like situation, fraught with such anticipation that it can't possibly meet expectation?

I asked that question because whenever high school reunion conversations come up, people who advocate going usually promote the following three points:

1. It's so good to reconnect with people, all of whom are all grown up and nice now.
2. It really lays a lot of the past to rest.
3. It's fun. Cut loose! Footloose!

(Okay I got a little off-track there. Nobody bursts into old Kevin Bacon movie theme songs. Usually.)

See, here's my feeling: people and dynamics rarely change. We grow, we move on, hopefully we mature, behave better, and so forth. Even so, at heart, we are who we are, and when we get together with people we knew at a certain time in life, aren't we likely to revert to the old dynamic? Isn't that even more likely if the last time you saw one another was back then?

I joined that Classmates.com site. I've looked around. People pretty much look the same. What makes me think they'd be any different, that I'd be any different?

The truth is, most of my classmates weren't horrible or evil. Many were quite nice. In general, a lot of nice people tried to fly under the radar and stick to their happy niches. They were smart. I wasn't quite so smart. This made me vulnerable, especially because, as is the case in any high school, some classmates were really unnecessarily mean, with that entitled arrogance some girls (and boys, to be fair) always seem to have and carry through life.

I can't actually even blame them, though, for the part of me that hated high school. What I really hated was how I acted in high school; that is to say, I was a compromise of myself, and not really me. I simply wanted to get along and not be ridiculed.

In order to do that, I tried very hard to do acceptable things, things that made me happy or happy enough and that would render me acceptable by my peers. In one of those twists that life often offers, this frequently set me up to feel worse about myself.

It all goes back to this concept of want and need, and how you can't always get what you want. I wanted to be more important rather than less important. And I wasn't. Hell hath no fury like a thwarted teen.

In all this trying, I missed out and lost out on some real good, and probably made quite a jackass of myself at times. I certainly wasn't as good a person as I could have---or should have---been.

Most importantly, it established a really horrible pattern.

When I completed high school I ran along my merry way and made no attempt whatsoever to keep in touch with anyone from my class. A few made an attempt here or there with me, and some I kept crossing paths with at the university. However, by and large, few people kept in touch or even tried. I imagine it was a combination of (a) other people I knew best made the decision to go as firmly as I did, and (b) the friendships simply weren't that firm, and combined with immaturity, youth, and dividing life paths, we all moved on. From one another. See, once free of high school, I thought I could really leave it all behind by having no contact whatsoever with it.

What I didn't leave behind, though, were my complexes and patterns I graduated with, and so, there was a lot of lather, rinse and repeat that made me wonder if anyone ever really left high school (figuratively). In the end, I was actually the one trapped there.

With time, I am letting go of bad lessons of high school. All around me is the continual opportunity to fall back into the bad patterns and complexes, and in a loose sort of way, it's a bit like any kind of addiction: mind over matter, new techniques, healthy substitutions, and so forth.

So with the fragile newness of the recovering, I'm loathe to walk back into the very situation that spawned it.

It's not all high school's fault. It was a perfect storm, in a way. My complexes, their patterns. I'm sure there are wonderful and interesting people there. I'm sure people who go will have fun. Some may even re-connect with old friends.

But that re-begs to the same question I asked earlier: to what end?

Why go? Many of the people I actually liked in high school are on the "where are they now?" list of missing. I can imagine that, like me, they intentionally left high school behind, in the past, but I wonder if unlike me, they actually managed to leave it behind.

If I thought that going would really be any kind of fun or lay to rest any old outstanding whatevers, I'd go. If I thought that my presence or absence would matter significantly, I'd go. Deep down, though, I suspect it won't.

What could I give? What could I get?

In truth, I expect that now, as back then, probably? It's still not a fit for my life. I've got plenty of more important now, and a good deal of it probably falls on the very same weekend.

That doesn't mean I've made up my mind, though. LOL

What do you think? What did you do with high school and reunions?

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

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You can't always get what you want


Weed? or flower? I guess it depends on who is doing the looking and what they're expecting out of that space.

You can't always get what you want.

Mick Jagger was bellowing this song around the beginning of my life, and I think it makes a pretty decent life theme song.

I don't recall when it was exactly that I figured out that the song had an application to my life. In other words, I am not really sure when I figured out that the rules of life weren't applied fairly. Was it because I had something someone else didn't? Or was it because someone else had something I didn't? Because I was a young child, I figure it had to be something that basic.

Maybe, as a child, I experienced too many large and powerful things that were completely out of my control. Back then, adults didn't care what kids thought or wanted, at least not on the whole, at least not like now. Back then, adults assumed that kids were resilient. They assumed kids didn't notice. They figured kids would be happy when adults were happy

That's not quite the truth.

Kids don't really care if adults are happy. Kids care that life is stable. They want the life they know. I don't recall ever giving a penny whistle whether my parents were happy. It didn't occur to me to wonder whether adults were happy. They could go anywhere and do anything. They had cars and money. What more could you want?

In fact, I'm not sure that I ever believed that happy was an intended state of being. I suspected it was a treat you got every now and again, such as ice cream from the singing truck or penny candy from the corner store, with occasional infusions of pure joy, such as getting to go to the circus.

You can't always get what you want

After my parents divorced, the years that followed were either very trying years or my glory days, depending upon which story I tell or the tone I adopt. I am very good at shifting perspective. I think people who live lives like mine always are, whether it is for ourselves or others.

The truth is that either version is true.

Those are the years that taught me to use my words.

At some point, it occurred to me that life challenges were inequitably distributed. At some point, it seemed as if I might at times have a few more, a little above average, if you will. I'm not sure if I noticed this myself or if it was pointed out to me. I hated equally the people who pointed it out and the people who belittled this feeling.

Nothing annoys me half so much as those who think how their lives work can or should be applied to others (including, especially, when I engage in this myself)---except, maybe, those who think because they've heard worse, your story has little to no merit.

But if you try sometimes you might find...You get what you need

Then we decided to have children.

That was the moment above all others when I realized---if I hadn't grasped it yet---that life doesn't always go according to your plan.

If it does, that's fantastic. Enjoy it. Lap it up.

But do not take credit for it. In my humble opinion.

This doesn't mean I think that we shouldn't note and feel good about working hard and graduating college with honors, or putting forth effort and getting a job, or realize that because we put in effort we accomplished something, and yes, that's something we did.

It's when people take credit for things that are beyond their control. It makes me smile indulgently, or sometimes it makes me clench my lips. As people who fancy themselves older and more experienced often do, I figure that someday, people who think that way are going to find out that the world is not in the palm of their hand, but as a caring person, I hope that day never really comes.

I often run across magical thinking like this. The people who engage in it are happy to share their philosophies with you, about how everything is within your grasp if only you go about life in the right way. They are happy to tell you how it worked for them, and what you ought to be doing.

If you try to share "eh, doesn't always go the way you want, you know, you can't always get what you want, and maybe there's a reason for that, maybe we aren't always wanting what we need..." then they will tell you that a divided heart is your greatest obstacle. In short, they will make it your fault, whatever it is that isn't going the way you'd hoped. You haven't been wishing right, like on the wrong star or a spell with the incorrect words.

So you learn to bite your tongue, most of the time, and appreciate that they found something that works for them, and understand that the converted are always the most zealous.

I wish I had a dime for every time someone told me that pregnancy was within my control. My kids would have a paid for Ivy League education. "Just relax and visualize it and it will come to you."

That's new age thinking I'd let go of a while back. Although it considers itself Eastern or Asian or rooted in something foreign and therefore good, it's actually so very American: a democratic application of fate---everyone has equal opportunity to get the brass ring.

I count myself a realist, and I believe that life has some sort of balance. It's not per se a price you have to pay, but I do believe that life asks something of you.

My life has asked me to understand that I am not necessarily the maker of the picture on the puzzle box that is my experience here on earth. It has taken nearly forty years, but I have slowly come to realize that when things aren't working, I am probably trying to manhandle the wrong piece into the open spot. I have learned that I need to step back, pause, ponder, look, and see if a different piece is a better fit.

There is a time that I must be the driver, and other times I have to let _________ take the wheel.

There have been too many moments that seemed too predestined, too coincidental, too ordained, too masterplanned. It all seems to be leading somewhere. This isn't a permission slip to sit back and let my life run on without my direct involvement, though. I have to be active. That may mean I get lost at times, hang on to the wheel too long at other times, or I may on occasion sit back and doze off in the passenger seat.

I don't know that this means I believe in fate. I don't think free will and destiny need to be mutually exclusive. I don't know that I believe everything happens for a reason.

I do think it can seem that way sometimes.

But I don't think you can make that a principle; it's more of an anecdote.

When things go your way, you probably were asking for a miracle, but just because it came doesn't mean that asking made it happen---will always make it happen.

I consider that magical thinking, and as much as my superstitious self might engage in it, I rarely let myself take credit or blame. Taking credit requires presenting a picture of worthiness, and I don't like to ponder the flip side of that, much less the exceptions or corollaries to it.

I do know that it makes sense to go ahead and try, do your best, hope, work for it, and enjoy what comes along as you want.

When you hit this place, it's a balance. It's a peace. It's a contentment, with little forays into happy.

It's pretty good.

Entitlement, now, is another discussion altogether.

What do you think about fate?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
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Monday, April 07, 2008

In which the year's at the spring, the lark's on the wing and all is right(ish) with the world...

By Friday of last week, I was a wee bit stressed. In case the spinning head and shrill tone escaped anyone's notice.

Luckily, Friday is followed up by that miracle of time known as The Weekend.

Our weekend was healing. Other than a Sunday we dedicated to fun, I think the thing that stands out most are three women who contributed something along the lines of restoring my faith in humanity.

Random Acts of Kindness

Act I

The woman was behind the Starbucks counter at Target. She was probably ten years older than me, at most. I'd been dragged into the Starbucks by a wailing Persistence, and I was exhausted straight through my spirit by incessant creative parenting, power struggles, and daughters on the edge.

"That milk!" Persistence shriek-wailed, "THAT MILK! Nilla MILK!"

Our circuit through the deli-produce-bakery area had been going badly. Persistence is always hungry and thirsty, and a carton of milk will keep her happy through the store. The cooler by the front entrance usually is stocked with milk, but that day, of all days, it was empty. Persistence took this as a personal insult. These days, nearly everything is a personal insult to Persistence, and personal insults require meltdown tantrums. We were one centimeter away from that. I was eager to move on, telling her we'd look at the end of the bread aisle for animal cracker boxes.

However, with no explanation, she belligerently kept running back and pointing and shrieking at the deli case area. I finally walked back over with her, and she finally communicated that she thought we ought to check Starbucks for the milk.

And there it was.

I was so irritated. If only I'd stopped and stooped down to ask her why earlier, rather than engaging in pleading with her to come on and annoyance when she didn't. If only she'd used her words to tell me why. If only Target hadn't moved the milk inside Starbucks.

I plucked a milk from the case, thought twice, and grabbed a second one for Patience. I plunked down the milks on the counter, trying to juggle my attention between the lady behind the counter asking me questions and taking my money along with a persistent Persistence who doesn't take a one second break between finding things about life, the universe and the world that make her unhappy right now.

"What's that?" I asked the lady, who had already repeated herself twice over the din I call daughter.

"I said, she's really cute!"

"Huh? Her? Oh yeah, right, she's very cute, and sweet, sometimes," I said, pausing to ask Persistence to chill out for a second so I could pay for her milk, then I muttered, "Not that anyone could tell right now."

But the lady heard me.

"Ah. Yes. She's in a transition phase, huh?" she said. Simply. That's it. Just those words. She didn't say them with pity, sympathy, infuse any meaning, or judgment.

She simply...understood.

The world seemed to stop and calm down. I didn't hear all the noise.

I looked at the lady and asked, to be sure I heard right, "Excuse me?"

"Transition phase, she's in one of those transition phases. Mine always acted just like that when they had a transition phase. They're 18 and 21, now, and they still do, a little bit," she said, then smiled, one mom to another, when the age of your child doesn't matter a bit.

"Yes, both my girls are," I said, "In a transition phase, I mean. And yes, it's just like this, every time. I never know who or what will come out the other end, but it's usually pretty amazing. Once you get through it, of course," I said, then smiled too, one mom to another.

"Here you are," she said, handing me my change, receipt and both milks, "Have a nice day."

I smiled and thanked her, and thanked her for understanding. I felt immensely grateful---I, who am so used to either being ignored or sent censorial glares (or worse, told what I ought to be doing) when in my mom role in public, was so grateful that this person didn't judge or pity me, but simply understood.

She looked down at Persistence, and in her calm voice, she said, "You too, big girl, you have a nice day."

Persistence, who is so used to either being ignored by adults or sent scathing looks, also froze, and, I think, in gratitude, stopped whining, and smiled at the lady.

I'd like to say that our shopping trip and day were perfect and lovely from that point forward, but that'd would be what you call taking artistic license.

However, I can say our day was better.

***********************

All of this is to introduce this week's Hump Day Hmm topic, inspired by Andrea of garden of nna mmoy. She asked that we discuss fate---we have discussed fate from a couple of angles already but it's been a while (one last April, as it happens! Also in June of last year, and maybe another time I don't recall...) and there are so many angles to fate.

Consider these questions: does the universe (God) prescribe an order? do things happen sometimes too coincidentally to be coincidental? is there a design? how is it that sometimes things come to us, just when we need them most?

Tell a story, discuss theory...whatever you'd like.

And check back here later for Act II of Random Acts of Kindness!

*********

Then, because my humor can be puerile, but also because my friend Jenny encourages this sort of thing, and I know she'd enjoy this:

It will probably not be a shock to anyone that my title is from Robert Browning's poem/drama Pippa Passes.

I used the most famous part:
The year's at the spring,
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

But. When I pulled up the quote, I ran across a tidbit I had completely forgotten!
Besides the oft-quoted line "God's in his Heaven/All's right with the world!" above, the poem contains an amusing error rooted in Robert Browning's unfamiliarity with vulgar slang. Right at the end of the poem, in her closing song, Pippa calls out the following:

But at night, brother Howlet, far over the woods,
Toll the world to thy chantry;
Sing to the bats’ sleek sisterhoods
Full complines with gallantry:
Then, owls and bats, cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

"Twat" both then and now is vulgar slang for a woman's external genitals. When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary inquired decades later where Browning had picked up the word, he directed them to a rhyme from 1660 that went thus: "They talk’t of his having a Cardinall’s Hat/They’d send him as soon an Old Nun’s Twat." Browning apparently missed the vulgar joke and took "twat" to mean part of a nun's habit, pairing it in his poem with a priest's cowl.


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