Friday, August 22, 2008

Portraits of Patience and Persistence as Young Girls


Recent work from my little artiste, Patience.

Persistence is showing her approaching four.

She sneaked into my office and got a pen, which she used on paper she also sneaked from my office and that happened to be an important part of a document.

"Oh no!" I said, upon discovering this, "Oh Persistence, what did you do. You went in my office---a no-no---and got my pen and paper---a no-no---and messed up my important work. I am so sad, so disappointed." I took back the pen and paper and walked to the office to return it. I stood and stared at the wall, frustrated and disappointed: why was this child so persistent, why did she not learn, what technique would work, how could I teach her to stay out of my things, oh what to do about this curiosity and getting into things---why wouldn't redirection work? I begged for patience and strength and guidance, and wished this didn't get to me. I was feeling poignantly the stress of a long summer, which felt more like a string of beratings than anything else.

In other words, I engaged in some self-pity, lots of frustration, and the usual personal berating we parents love so well when a child keeps repeating the same problem.

Behind me, a small voice said, "Mommy?"

I turned to see my little Persistence, who has grown so much this summer and yet is still so tiny. My fierce girl, so determined to keep up with her big sister, so sure of her big girl status. She will walk next door and ring the doorbell and ask the neighbors if her friend can play---something her sister still won't do. She insists on walking across the street to our other neighbors with me watching and her sister by her side---so independent. And yet, still a sweet little lap cuddler.

"Yes?"

"Mommy, I sorry I got in your things."

I held out my arms and she ran to them. Once, she fit in one arm. Now, she still fits snug against me, and I know I will always find that she does.

My Patience is losing her patience with her sister's constant attention demands. She bears it, sometimes gracefully, sometimes not, with understanding I'd think was beyond her years. She got strength from one-on-one dates with each of us, special times with Grandma, and some inner well of tolerance older siblings often seem to have. But she, like me, is frustrated with the endless boundary testing and how frayed it makes my nerves---her nerves too. She wants the Other Mommy. The one who doesn't need daily Time Outs to compose herself and keep her cool. The one who isn't in constant crisis management mode, multi-task mode. We agree on this. Sometimes we commiserrate.

"That Persistence!" she says, "Ooooohhhhhhhh!"

"I understand," I tell her, "It's frustrating, isn't it? It's not fun when she argues with everything, and breaks rules, is it? It's not fun to watch me give her time outs and tell her she did something that was not okay, is it?"

"No! I wish she could just remember the rules and follow them!"

"This is her learning them. Learning curves can be tough, you know? We lose patience, cool, sometimes. But it's just the curve, right?"

"Yeah."

Patience has been known to incite her little sister to naughty acts, but she has also been known to try to help her not get in trouble or help her extricate herself from trouble.

"Persistence! Tell Mommy you're sorry and won't get into her drawer again! Then you don't have to have a timeout and we can go play!"

Patience held up her special "Tissy hugs" and a special sleepover in her room as motivation for Persistence to complete potty training. That worked better than any other currency. She also will distract Persistence while I get something done, offering to read a book that she wrote and illustrated.

She writes and illustrates books almost every day. She looks around everywhere for inspiration, ideas and ways to improve her drawing skills. She amazes me with how she ponders the world, and puts together the seemingly random pieces within it.

Riding in the car, we rarely listen to music---or rather, we rarely hear it. Patience tends to use that time to release the torrents of words and thoughts she's stored inside all day. She's one who tends to be quiet around others, but catches everything, and reports it back at home.

Yesterday, I sent my husband in my car because the rain had flooded many streets. My car is higher and all wheel drive.

"That was nice, Mommy," Patience said approvingly, "You shared."

Persistence patted my shoulder and reached around for a hug, "Don't worry, Mommy," she whispered into my neck, "Daddy is a safe driver and he's in your car."

They are little loves, those two, in different ways, in similar ways----it's all something uniquely special and precious. My girls. Six and three for now, a short time longer, but nearly seven and four. I can't wait.

P.S. I'll be away for a little while, but I'll see you when I get back. :)

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
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.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A lesson from 1985: Raising "good" girls the "good" way (Hump Day Hmm for August 20, 2008)

Last week, I wrote about 1984 meeting up with 2008 and noticing it simply looked like a slightly more weatherworn version of itself. I'm put in mind of what my teen self might think of my nearly middle-aged self. Shudder.

Then some people said they hoped that 1984 (or whatever year) could be a topic for writing because what they had to say exceeded a comment. (So I am looking forward to some posts here!)

So here we are, the topic is:
. . . several people asked that the topic be related to my last post, about 1984. It doesn't have to be political, it doesn't have to be 1984 (keeping in mind that not everyone was born or much aware at that point). But choose a time that was an awakening for you, select a year or an event that year, that you invested in, although you might now have been quite old enough to understand it fully, and that affected you down the line. Or write about 1984, the election or your life then.
Obviously I've already written about 1984.

So let me hit another year: 1985.

That was the year I got my first job, which I got in order to earn money for a summer trip to Europe. Along with a young teacher, her friend, and about 10 other teens I enjoyed a whirlwind (emphasis on whirl) tour of Europe in the summer of 1985.

One of the girls who went was Ashley, age eighteen. I've lived a lot of years since 1985 and I still don't think I'm half as sophisticated or wordly as Ashley was back then. Ashley took me under her wing that summer and taught me how to handle come-ons, an invaluable skill that served me well for many years after that. She started her lessons with theory, and then insisted we put it into practice---in bars and clubs (aka discotheques). First practical application? Italy.

I can't tell you what all went down in Italy but suffice it to say Ashley was a true asset.

Not half as big an asset as in Amsterdam, though.

We concluded our tour in Amsterdam, and Ashley, a couple of other girls and I were waiting in the hotel lounge for our bus. It was time to head home and we were ready, but sorry our big adventure was over. We wearily and drearily sipped sodas, heads drooping as badly as our eyes.

Apparently nothing says "come and get me big boy" like exhausted young teen girls drooping over a corner of the bar, because we hadn't been sitting for longer than five minutes before a man---probably in his early 30s but to us anciently old---came up with a come-on line. We simply pretended we didn't speak any language he threw at us and kept showing him our watches, as if he were asking the time. After an annoying level of persistence, he finally gave up and left with a good-natured laugh, as if we'd all been having a fun time, equal participants.

We hadn't, and that experience prompted Ashley to conclude with her "Edification of Julie" course. This final chapter of the learning unit was titled, "Creeps and Losers." She could have called it: Predators.

I think about predators while I raise my girls, and I know what I experienced so I try to figure out how to arm them without spoiling the good.

This topic came up last night between me and my husband. We were out shopping and a girl, maybe 18ish, walked past in a short and tight skirt with a barely-a-shirt, cropped up to here and unbuttoned down to there. She'd hopped out of a Volkswagen beetle decorated with flowers, so had caught my girls' attention.

"Her skirt's ripped," Patience said.

"Ummm, well, that's called a cutoff. It's meant to be that way," I said

"Oh, okay..." Patience said, "But maybe it's time for her to hand it down to her little sister. I think it's too small for her."

Yes, it was too small for her, but I don't think she had any plans to hand it down. Later, this stimulated an intense conversation with my husband, as we discussed how to handle the issue of clothing, perception and sent signals and messages (regardless of intention). In other words, we talked about the link between sex and clothes.

"I'm going to tell them that if they dress like that they're telling men they're open for business," my husband said.

Sure enough, a man had walked past and openly stared, even bothered to look back over his shoulder at the girl dressed so skimpily.

But was that the right approach? I've never used it, and it's not just about my kids' ages. I've never felt comfortable with how this approach implies that controlling sexuality is a burden that rests on the shoulders of the female.

"It's not reasonable to teach our girls that they have to take care to make sure men don't interpret any sexual signal from them. What does that do? I mean, that's crazy. Some men need very little. Just being a woman is enough for some guys. And then what? They dress modestly act appropriately and some guy still hits on them---then they're thinking it's their fault. That's really a terrible message; and it's not at all the angle and approach I want to take here. I want them to think that they can have their own style and be safe, and if for some reason some man can't respect that, then it's his problem. I want them to know they have the right to say no and the right to move on. I pray mothers and fathers of sons are out there teaching their boys the same thing. But a big part of that is language, and that means being thoughtful about how we speak about other people---how they're dressed---in front of and to our kids."

I shared that I'd recently read an article about empowering girls and teaching girls about appropriate dress without denigrating other girls.

One of the most valuable things I learned from Ashley that summer is that I have a choice---she empowered me. One of the other valuable things I learned from her is that some men have issues and while they might try to make (or succeed in making) that your problem, it will never be your issue.

I want to be cautious in creating an opening for my girls to think that anything dysfunctional that they might experience is their fault. I know the odds, and I know the odds are against my hopes that my girls will never experience a jerk, a creep, a loser, a predator, or similar who mistakes power and control for sexuality, or who mistakes his own sexuality and desires for theirs.

Someone out there right now is raising a boy who will grow up not respecting women as people. However, someone out there right now is also raising a boy who will grow up to respect women as people.

I want to teach my girls more about the way they should be treated and respected, so that when someone doesn't fit that, they know it, and move on. I don't want to focus solely on teaching them to watch for monsters in people.

My husband wanted to know what I planned to do.

"Play it by ear, mostly," I said, "Give a good foundation, and deal with any situations as they come. I buy them clothing we find appropriate now, and we skip all the sexualized kiddie clothes. I do my best to keep inappropriate influences out as best I can, and do my best to avoid communicating that things we find inappropriate are cool. I hope that helps, and we'll see."

I agree it's important to arm girls with knowledge and information, but not at their expense or other girls' expenses, also not at the expense of the male.

So...what's your approach to this situation? What do you think?

And make sure to ad in your reminiscing posts in Mr. Linky here.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
Also blogging at:
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Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Revelation: You Don't Get to Say or How Elizabeth Edwards Inspired Me, Again

copyright 2008 Julie Pippert

Last fall, on the campaign trail with her husband John---then still in the race, pre-scandal, post-what she knew---Elizabeth Edwards was criticized for her choice to take the children and go on the road with her husband. After two harsh and critical articles about her decision, Edwards wrote,
"I want to be entirely clear. You don't get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn't make my choices in my situation. You don't get to say that my children don't want to be with us when you don't know them and when, parenthetically, you know that happy children can be periodically disagreeable. You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my disease. I want to be really clear: you don't know. And if the sun always shines on you -- and I pray it does -- you will never know."
Back then, I was very inspired by her gracious yet firm rejection of the criticism. I wrote about it, and included my own thoughts (as well as links to the original criticism, and snippets from discussions).

After her husband's affair and scandal was revealed recently, Edwards wrote briefly and requested that the harmful voyeurism be set aside and that the public allow her family to deal with this in private. As difficult as it must have been to not reply and not feed, and most of all, not defend, after their initial statements, the principals in the situation---that is to say, the ones with the actual vested interest---remained privately quiet.

I thought a lot about that. I understood and respected it. But with the new flurry of criticism that it's all her fault, I wondered why she didn't defend herself as the wife, and her choice as the wife, the way she did as a mother. Where was this sort of thing from Elizabeth, the woman and wife:
You don't get to say I am a terrible person because you think you wouldn't make my choices in my situation. You don't get to blame me, question or criticize my choice, not even just because I am a public figure. Not even because I supported my husband in his bid for president. Not even because I kept private business I considered private and irrelevant to his ability to do the job I believed he was eminently qualified to do, and, within which, he could do so much good. You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my situation. I want to be really clear: you don't know. And if the sun always shines on you -- and I pray it does -- you will never know.
I don't know, but the lack of it doesn't mean I can draw any conclusions. Except, of course, I have. I have concluded that were Elizabeth Edwards to speak again about this, she would say this, because I need to believe she would believe it. But, no unfair expectation or pressure. You know.

I need to hear it, and so I imagine that I do because right now I am working out, in my own mind, what you don't get to say. (General you, including myself.) I've been working on this for a while, and it really began some time ago, with another woman's story of an unfaithful husband.

In my almost late 20s---married a couple of years---at my job I shared an office with a nice lady about a decade older than me. She had two children, who she used to stay home with full time. It never occurred to me to wonder why she came back to work, but one day she explained. Her husband, you see, was a serial cheater who had driven their family six figures into debt paying for and paying to hide his repeated affairs. I was speechless. Luckily. Speechless he did this and speechless she stayed with him. She explained that too.

It seems, you see, that each of us prioritizes things differently. To her, family, and a secure family for her children, was the top priority. So when her husband's duplicity and cheating came to light, she asked him if he could commit to fixing this. He said yes, she said yes, and so the two of them broke down everything in their lives, except their marriage. Then they rebuilt.

I have no idea if they are still together, but the point is they were together then, and her point of view made me reconsider what marriage meant, really. As the child of divorced parents who grew up in the disposable age, I had formed some odd, if not unusual, ideas of marriage. These ideas were contrary to who I am as a person: when I care deeply, I invest in a person, and I keep some facsimile of that. "Let it go" and "get over it" and "move on" gave me the impression that because I remained invested, I was wrong. "You deserve to be happy" and "You are entitled to..." and "If you aren't happy then..." gave me the impression that I deserved to be happy and satisfied always, and anything lesser was unworthy. But that wasn't how I felt. The key was the investment.

My coworkers husband was lucky that she had really invested in him and their family, lucky that when he was finally ready to really invest in the family, she was invested enough to give him the chance. It doesn't always work that way, and it doesn't always need to.

However, listening to my coworker, I realized that sometimes, it does and it can and it should. I realized that sometimes a person is worth investing in, and sometimes it's worth keeping that investment even if it is a challenge.

That made me start thinking about myself in the same way, and I started believing, just a little bit, that maybe, despite my challenges, I was worth investing in, that I was worthy even though I might be imperfect or not who someone thought I should be. Believing this helped me see that a long-term investment in a person---past or present, in your life now or not---was not necessarily wrong.

Prior to her story it seemed some rules were absolute, such as for cheating: she/he cheats, you leave. It's over. Broken, beyond repair. Or, also such as: we're no longer in one another's lives so we no longer care. But most importantly: if you are not who I think you should be, you are not worth my investment.

Prior to her story, it seemed so absolute. It was the lesson I had learned, it was the example around me: you disappointed me, we are through. But maybe, sometimes, that wasn't the thing you had to do. Maybe, sometimes, the hurt, the pride, the betrayal, the complex and difficult emotions, the heartbreak---maybe sometimes for some people something else was bigger and more important.

And that day, my coworker made me see that. It got me thinking, her story, and I've carried and repeated it for years. Her story added a shade of gray to my perception, and it has come to exemplify different things through the years.

Right now, for the situation with John and Elizabeth Edwards, it is rather literal: sometimes, staying might be the right choice. It's not standing by your man (or woman) necessarily. That is a patronizing oversimplification of a complex situation. It's not being a dupe. It's not about being afraid, being alone, sticking in a rut, or enabling. It's about what matters to that person---about what that person chooses, because of what he or she finds right or best for his or her life.

But also, for me right now, it is, as I said a few paragraphs ago: a lesson in value and worth, a lesson in investment.

Elizabeth Edwards' situation reminded me of this story and what it means to me. This story, combined with Edwards' message about boundaries, once again inspired and reminded me that we don't get to say, we don't get to judge, we don't get to determine right, and most of all, we don't get to know---whether it is about marriage, fidelity, childrearing, or something else---someone else's life and choices as if it was our own, as if it was ours to decide about .

(Note: My mind is anticipating a counterpoint here, one about "but what if I care?" and "what about how it affects me?" and "sometimes it's my business" and so forth. I'm not saying disassociate or disengage. I'm not invalidating these possibilities or that some things are generally agreed to be wrong. What I am saying is that what someone else chooses to do about it is their choice, just as what you do is your choice---by which I'm simply saying we should respect boundaries, even if it is to do with you, and understand sometimes one person makes a choice another might not make---but that doesn't equal wrong.)

This point is especially essential to me right now. I've finally come to understand that although I have a strong sense of my own ideas of what I ought to do, I am too frequently governed by supposed rules, by what others think---what they think of me, what they will think of me---and I measure my decision by making sure it would garner the most approval. This doesn't mean I always do what I think others think I should---or tell me I should, but it does mean on some level I feel defensive or anxious about it.

Also, it means I let those voices, the ones that tell me what to do, in my head. Further, it means I spend an unproductive amount of time worrying about what I should do. How I ought to be. Putting pressure on myself to meet that expectations, and putting guilt on myself when I do not---wondering which thing is the thing that will so ultimately disappoint that I will no longer be worthy. I cannot bend my oak self into a willow, no matter how much I think I should or how hard I try. Thus, lately, I've been thinking it through, working on the concept of being me and finding the balance of being me, expecting others to accept me as I am, and then, knowing, wisely, when the moment has come to fulfill their hope or expectation of me, even if only in my own way.

I've frequently compared this stage of life to the teen years. I'm not new to this. Mid-life crisis, people you'd never expect attending reunions, old contacts popping up. It's all typical. It's also the maturing and growth, plus the physical changes, too. My body is changing, and so is my mind. In my teens, I belligerently and defiantly lived by: You don't get to say! Here, once again, I am saying the same, albeit more gently, much less defiantly. I am saying it measuredly: hmm, I'll take that under consideration, but in the end, it must be my decision.

I am also asking, as I did as a youth, please respect that, and trust my judgment.

But now, as then, I realize I have to earn that, too. There are quite a few areas in which I have earned that and these are the areas I am working most diligently on making mine.

Thus, in lieu of Elizabeth Edwards saying it about her own life now, I will say it---calmly yet determinedly, kindly and respectfully yet firmly---about my own and maybe this time it will really get through to me and to the unsolicited voices in my head and around me that is is right and true and reasonable:
You don't get to say I am a terrible person because you think you wouldn't make my choices in my situation. You don't get to blame me or criticize my choice, not even if you think you have some right or say. You don't get to judge me because you think you know exactly what you would do if you had my situation. I want to be really clear: you don't know. In the end, it is my choice and it must be my decision. So you don't get to say, not what I should do or who I should be. And you don't get to tell me I am not worthy because I do not fit your ideas and expectations.
It's here that I'll cut off and say the magic words: Hump Day Hmm.

Note: My husband made the good point that by bringing up two infidelity stories readers might infer I have an infidelity situation on my hands. Good point. I do not. I just want to make that clear. I am, however, struggling with a transition point in life. I have, lately, been getting a lot of "you've let me down" and "you haven't met my expectations" feedback (literally said). This is a button of mine. For example, I have been moving into more working and less SAHMing and this has meant cutting back on some volunteering and different activities, things I once would have said yes to and now must say no. As a result of the change and the feedback, I've been upping expectation of myself to an unrealistic point and driving myself crazy. The Edwards' situation came up, I thought about it, it reminded me of the other story and from there, I found perspective. It just so happens both ar eabout infidelity. If you ask me why I take such lessons from infidelity, hmm. That's a hard one. At a try: Infidelity is considered the worst betrayal in a marriage, it's like the beacon issue, and is often surely a reason a person is depicted as terrible and the mitigating factor in a split. If I set aside the specifics---marriage, sex, and faithfulness---and boil it down to the general issues---relationship, trust, betrayal, expectations and let down---the fact that one can recover from this and remain invested in one another speaks to me about investment, forgiveness, recovery, unconditional, worth, and so forth. I hope that makes sense.

Next week...several people asked that the topic be related to my last post, about 1984. It doesn't have to be political, it doesn't have to be 1984 (keeping in mind that not everyone was born or much aware at that point). But choose a time that was an awakening for you, select a year or an event that year, that you invested in, although you might now have been quite old enough to understand it fully, and that affected you down the line. Or write about 1984, the election or your life then.

The following week...build on the idea in this post, and the concept of awakening. What shift in thinking have you experienced that caused you to view others differently, and created a new way of thinking in yourself?

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
Also blogging at:
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

How 2008 isn't that far from 1984, politically

In 1984 I was a teen, but not old enough to vote yet. That didn't keep me and my peers from being interested in the election that year.

For those of you who don't recall (or weren't born yet) in 1984 Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro challenged Republican incumbents President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush. It was unprecedented: a ticket with a woman. The nation was sort of flummoxed, and everyone was talking about it, a lot.

That was the year then Colorado Senator Gary Hart, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Illinois minister Jesse Jackson all ran for Democratic nominee. Hart lost after Mondale mockery of his new ideas, and Jackson lost because...well, we can all speculate why. History will probably attribute it to his bigoted remarks, largely about Jewish people. History is rarely completely wrong, but it also doesn't always tell the whole story.

Once Mondale secured the nomination, he selected Ferraro as his running mate, and the Woman Question took center stage, despite repeated efforts to make it about experience and qualifications.

Trivia Fact: Do you remember who else Mondale considered as a running mate? Two other women, including Dianne Feinstein. He also considered Henry Cisneros, from San Antonio, Texas, which was a big deal to my family since he was a good friend.

Reagan retained his office in a landslide win. It wasn't even close.

What happened?

That's a long story, but since you asked me, I'll tell you I think it was the Woman Question and the Economics Question.

Again, you may not remember (or have been born yet) but I recall the 70s in vivid technicolor. I remember both energy crises (oh yes, we had the same energy crises back then, and what did we do? DRILL HERE DRILL NOW and release reserves---now how's that working as a long-term plan, my friends??). Who here remembers being assigned days you could get gas at gas stations because supply was so low? By license plate number. Who remembers that being a half a day to a day errand, sitting in the long lines, waiting for your turn at the pump, praying they didn't run out before you got there? Oh yeah, those were the days. 1979. Loads of fun.

And then what happened? Big recession. Terrible recession.

So Reagan came in and applied reaganomics. Then the US recovered and gained a robust economy. (Note: Just because those two sentences followed one another doesn't mean I buy that the first resulted in the second.) So in 1984 we were fat, happy, and feeling a little cocky with our strong economy.

Mondale was my favorite (big shockeroo) despite Reagan and his economic theory. I liked his attitude towards policies for women, and I really wanted him elected so that by the time I was adult there wouldn't be any question about the Equal Rights Amendment (which he promised to pass) and fair salaries. He also promised to end the Cold War and stop nuclear proliferation with a freeze. I was a big fan of that plan too, if for no other reason than I was tired of ruining the knees of my white linen pants in duck and cover drills. But also because, by God, I hoped the Russians loved their children too. (Okay so the 1984 election preceded that song, but the song nailed how many of us felt.)

We were also all feeling very patriotic after a successful Olympics. I was totally in love with Mitch Gaylord, that talented men's gymnast. Of course I loved him for his talent. I support athletes. That's why I went to the parade when the men's gymnastic team came to town and screamed myself hoarse. (Irrelevant note: I wore my favorite new outfit: pink, gray and white plaid Bermuda shorts, a pink short-sleeved cotton summer sweater with wide neck for slipping off the shoulder if one wanted, white sicks with pink and gray dots, and gray and pink loafers. Yes, I remember that outfit and day. Vividly.)

What we weren't feeling was kindly disposed to Mondale, his female running mate, and his liberal economic, diplomatic, and equality policies.

So he lost. By a lot. So back to the woman and money questions.

I think Mondale lost because he chose a female running mate. A lot of people pressured Ferraro to step aside, and in my memory she understandably got a little belligerant about it. That I respected. In my memory, one day, she said she would, if it helped the party. That crushed me. I had no idea what she went through but I could imagine, but I so wanted her to pave that way.

Also, I think he lost because he told the truth. He said taxes would have to go up. He said we'd have to make friends with the Russians. He said we had to reduce the deficit. He did not sing sunshine up voters' asses. He did not say what they wanted to hear (exclusively). He did say what he thought. He said what needed to be said. And it cost him the election.

In 1988, the Democrats weren't even contenders against George Bush, especially after Gary Hart's sex scandal, and the sometimes incomprehensible Dukakis won the nomination. I could vote by 1988---a Democrat even back then---and even I had to swallow hard to cast that ballot.

Trivia Fact: Who remembers Bill Clinton at the Convention? Luckily, he learned brevity is the soul of wit. To some degree. Who remembers Ann Richards at the Convention? "Silver foot in the mouth," she called Bush. I adored Ann Richards. Adored her. Who remembers that Dukakis thought to correct Mondale's error and selected Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate? He thought to appeal to the Southern male vote, and Bentsen wasn't some "liberal New Englander" a phrase that strikes me as a little oxymoronic to some degree. Who remembers Jesse Jackson, once again running, and his ire over being passed up for VP? Oh Jesse.

Sidebar: I was on the school newspaper in 1984 (I know! another shockeroo!)...and we ran a poll of how our classmates would vote. If you're curious, here are the results:

Note: Keep in mind kids often vote as their parents do. So...

430 students responded to the survey
82% selected Reagan/Bush
15% selected Mondale/Ferraro
3% undecided

And yet, 50.7% did not consider themselves loyal to any particular party. 40.7% declared themselves Republican, and 8.6% declared themselves Democrats.

Then came the wildcard...if you could vote for anyone...? 5% of the vote went to Van Halen and 2% to Ozzy Osbourne.


So what can we take from the election of 1984 and what has come since then? Weigh in. Do you think we've made much progress--enough progress? How do you think the racial and gender factors in 1984 replayed out in 2008?

At least tell me where you were in 1984 (even if it was "twinkle in Mom and Dad's eyes).

What's not to love? All American guy, Olympic gold medalist, reputed nice guy...and...
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
Also blogging at:
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Monday, August 11, 2008

My Grandma went to Alaska and all I got was this stinkin' poop

My mother- and father-in-law just got back from a trip to Alaska. This past Saturday they regaled us with stories and descriptions from their trip. My mother-in-law might have said other things, but what I heard most was: it was cold.

I love cold. I love it.

My mother-in-law said that Alaska weather reminded her of the time she made that mistake and came to visit us in Boston in late March. I love Boston in late March. It's usually brisk. That year was no exception, with some snowfall lingering still. We decided to tromp around Cambridge---Harvard Square---because my favorite book store was there. My mother-in-law had slacks, a sweatshirt, and a windbreaker, with low-heeled loafers. She was frozen. Near to death. I, on the other hand, was doing a fair impression of Julie Andrews singing and dancing my merry way across the slush in about the same amount of clothing, minus the flats. I had on hiking boots.

"You and winter," said my mother-in-law, segueing back from the Massachusetts trip to the Alaska one, "You would have loved Alaska."

It was universally agreed Alaska is my kind of place.

I confessed two things right then and there: I currently have a secret desire to live on the Alaskan peninsula and I think Ice Road Truckers is one of the coolest shows on TV.

My in laws all stared at me in collective surprise. Maybe more like shock.

I explained: while watching an episode of Ice Road Truckers we saw what it was like (well, okay got a vague impression of what it was like) to live on the peninsula. Very few roads, isolated, harnessing green power, lots of rain, relatively cool frequently and bone deep freezing cold often...

I said "Alaska just seems like such an awesome place. I imagine it's a life of 'you get what you get and you don't throw a fit' don't you? Doesn't that sound...wonderful?"

More silence.

After a minute, my sister-in-law agreed and said Sitka had appealed to her.

The family froze for one more second, but then moved on.

My sister-in-law has been a reliable person. My husband and I, on the other hand, have been known to Fly the Coop on a Mere Whimsy. You never know with us. We might just pack up and move to another country some day. People think the children have grounded us (bwahahaha) and maybe they slowed us down a bit (we've managed to stay in one place, more or less, for four whole years!) but now they are older and we're all feeling restless. Yes, I said all.

Today Patience said, "Mom, I think it's about time to move again. We've been here a while and it's getting a little old and boring."

Hello my lovely little apple, come to Mama Tree.

Patience is known for her forthrightness. But we have been working diligently on Tempering Our Words and Using Them Appropriately, along with our Manners.

I saw this lesson in perplexed action on Saturday when my mother-in-law handed Patience a gift---a souvenir from Alaska:

"Do you know what it is?" my mother-in-law asked, smiling. She was waiting for the laugh; we all were.

But Patience clutched the tin in her hand and bit her lip.

"What do the words say?" I prompted.

"It says, 'Alaska snowman poop,'" she said. The adults all giggled, then abruptly went quiet when we realized the intended recipient of the joke was not laughing at all, not even smiling.

Pregnant pause.

As everyone waited for Patience's reaction, I saw her tense up and furrow her brow. A beat later I realized: oh my gosh, she's taking it literally. It's a nice tin with printed words and usually labels on tins are indicative of what's inside. My sweet girl thought her grandmother had brought her a tin of poop.

I could just imagine the inner monologue:
Oh no, it's a present, and Mom said I am to say thank you for presents. But...it's poop. Why would she bring me poop? Do snowmen poop? If so, how? And why would anyone gather it up and put it in a tin for little children in Texas? And why in the world would Grandma bring me a tin of snowman poop? What am I supposed to do with it? Oh no everyone's watching, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? I'm supposed to be grateful and say so. What's the proper etiquette for thanking someone who brought you poop?
I took pity on my girl.

"Oh, honey, it's a joke," I said, "It's not really poop. It's mints. See the little words on the snowman? It's just those little candy mints. But they're round and white so the joke is they are snowman poop. Let's open it up and see."

So, with her audience still waiting, Patience and I opened the tin, and she checked out the mints.

"Ohhhhhhh, mints," she said, "Thank you Grandma." She smiled at her grandmother in relief, her faith in Grandma's sanity and love completely restored in an instant. Also, then, Grandma handed her a book about sled dogs. The real gift.

Me? I think that reaction was much, much funnier than any laughter at a poop joke could ever be.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
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, August 06, 2008

Until it comes back to you

When the phone rang, I was a little annoyed. I'd finally gotten the kids settled into a task for longer than two minutes, with no fighting, and was actually making progress on my project.

"Hello," I said, a little more brusquely than I should have. It's not the caller's fault that I'm stretched too thin in too many directions from too much multi-tasking. "Hello," I said again, this time more kindly.

"Hi Julie," the voice of a lady I know said brightly, "How are you?"

"Fine, fine, and you?" I said, biting back 'busy' as an answer.

"So how are the kids?" she asked, omitting an answer.

"The kids? They're fine. A little rambunctious, you know. It's time for school to start."

"Oh," she said, "Oh. Right, they're fine, that's good news."

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, you know, they were over here playing the other day, and my kids are sick now. I just wanted to make sure your kids are fine. You know, since Persistence had those sneezes," she said, when what she really meant was---did your kids make my kids sick.

"Persistence has bad allergies," I said, explaining sneezes and runny nose to a disbelieving audience for the zillionth time, "Poor thing comes by it honestly," I gave a little laugh, "My allergies are horrible, especially in the summer. I even had that bad asthma thing from that sinus infection. She's the same."

"Well, allergies can make it easy to get sick," she said, "I mean, I heard that. So many viruses, you never know who has what."

"Right," I said, "Hey listen, the kids are getting a little out of hand, I better go."

"Sure," she said.

And I wondered how many other invitations would come our way after this. I wondered whether it was worth it to me to try to work it out. I wondered whether it was worth it to me to call her again. I weighed my children's socialization against my own feelings. I find the older I get, the less tolerance for stuff like this I have. I even find less and less burning in me about the injustice.

******

"My daughter did what?" I said.

"Well, it was all the kids, they were all in the middle of it, so..." my friend trailed off.

"She'll help make amends, clean up," I said, "And then we'll deal with this at home. I'm so sorry."

I took my daughter aside, "This is not cool, kid, go help clean up and no more monkey business, okay? Clean up and then we go home."

"But, Mom, I didn't..."

"You were there," I said, "You are at fault too. Go. Clean."

My friend and I watched the kids scamper to clean.

"I don't know what got into my daughter," she said, "She's never done anything like this." She stared at me. I wasn't sure which thing she thought I could explain: why her daughter had done this, or why it happened while my daughter was there.

******

I had been avoiding this talk, but this friend wouldn't let me get away with it forever.

"We haven't seen you much," she said, stating the obvious, pointing out the elephant---the one I had hoped we could ignore until things changed, got better, or I figure out a solution. Then we'd go back to normal and we could pretend, because in the end, it shouldn't be a big deal. I hoped.

"Oh yes I know, I've been really..." I bit back 'busy.' So often I bite back that excuse, true as it might be. In this case, it was true, but not the real reason. "Look, there have been some problems, when the kids play. I don't know what it is with my kids and that girl, but it goes badly every time... My kids have to...well, I'm holding them accountable for their part, and they were grounded, but that was for them, you know? To teach them a lesson but also to get some space."

"I know," she said, "We have trouble with that child too, and I don't like the behavior. Did I tell you about the time she... and what about the time she... and then the incident when..."

I stared, horrified. I'd thought the behavior I'd seen in my house was bad enough. I had done my best to deal with what came, but the straw that broke the camel's back for me and my husband was the day our daughter was at this child's house for a playdate, and when he went to pick her up, she wasn't there and the family had no idea where the kids were. Unconcerned, because they were used to this, they said, "Oh, they're somewhere, at someone's house." My husband frantically combed the neighborhood, knocking on every door of every family we knew with kids. We finally found our daughter at the house of a child who was friends with the other girl, but whom we didn't know. We were supposed to be okay with this because everyone was okay. Our worry was supposed to be needless, groundless. We were supposed to understand that playing could mean anywhere in the neighborhood; after all, it's a nice one, with lots of nice families and the kids would only ever go to the house of someone they knew.

I knew the girl's parents, knew they were loving and did what they thought they should as parents. We just had different ideas. I knew they were nice. I wished I could be nice. But I couldn't keep letting it go on as it was. It was trouble, troubling, and some danger. So my husband and I decided the best thing was to guide the kids in other directions, and be kind but limit interaction. I kept telling myself I was choosing the best thing I could for my kids, but it still felt bad.

"I had no idea," I said, "I thought...well I knew it wasn't just at my house, I guess, but no, I didn't know. I guess, well I have to ask, how can you be okay with her at your place, with your kids at her place? I mean, I know not everyone, well okay nobody, is going to make the choice I have, but...?"

"I don't know what else to do, you know? She's a kid, and how do you look at someone and say yeah, your kid is not okay to play with?"

But that's just what I had done.

******

I looked with dismay at the playdate schedule. Somehow, we were unavailable for nearly every single get-together. My work schedule and travel schedule was amazingly the exact opposite of everyone else's. I felt that once again, we'd lose touch with local friends and classmates during the summer.

I called people, initially, for some spontaneous get-togethers, but most were busy: camp, class, activities, daycare, and so forth. "Maybe next week," they said, "Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday?"

"Rats," I said, "The kids are visiting their grandmother that week. Maybe the next week? We're pretty wide open all summer, just a few things, like next week..."

"We're just so booked this summer...had to keep the kids active...you know," they said.

I did know. In past summers I had sat on floors with them and plotted out coordinated camps, classes and activities. We'd abstained this summer because I was working more, and had hired a sitter, who hadn't quite worked out. But on top of that, we decided our schedule and budget didn't really allow sitter and camp. Camp had gotten so expensive. Then, after the sitter left, it was late, so many things were already booked and with prices of everything higher, we decided sending me to the insane asylum in the fall after multi-tasking working and mommying all summer was cheaper than childcare.

Just another side-effect of the economy.

******

"Are you working full-time now?" my friend asked.

"Well, I'm either working or seeking work, full-time," I said, "It's a lot of work to get work," little laugh.

"Yeah, it seems like everyone is heading back to work or something these days," she said, "I keep thinking about it...but I think the kids need to get a little older."

"Only do it if it's what you really want, really need, as in your drive to work, or your budget needs your income," I said, "The mom job is full-time regardless, and the rest...well, it makes it all more complicated."

"Yeah, that's why I'm taking my time," she said.

I either heard or projected a feeling of peer pressure and internal pressure to be more, more than just mom, in her words, although she really seemed happy with her life as it was.

********

My daughter hung up the phone sadly, "She's not home again."

"Did you leave a message?" I asked.

"No," she said, "I can't." My heart was torn between pity and a feeling I needed to toughen her up. She needed to learn how to use the phone. She needed to not let her shyness hurt her or others.

"I'll call her mom later, and leave a message," I promised, "Do you want to call Carrie to play?"

"No," she said, "Carrie just wants to play teenager. She watches those shows you won't let us. And anyway, I don't want to play teenager."

I believed her, and we stood there, beside the phone base.

After a second, the moment fell off her like a too large jacket.

"Persistence, hey Persistence! Want to go play pet shop with the animals?" she called out.

"Yeesssss!" came the responding cry from the other room, "Let's go!"

They charged upstairs happily.

*******

Every day, I watch the choices I make filter down, in many ways, on many levels.

What can I say about that. Possibly nothing more than: it is what it is.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
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, August 05, 2008

Tropical Storm Edouard: the updates (and photos)

(I'm also Tweeting at jpippert on Twitter http://twitter.com/jpippert)

8:15 a.m. about two hours after the first notable rain bands hit:

Note the big, brown patch courtesy of the drought. See why we are so happy to get rain, finally? You can't see the rain in the photo or how the trees are starting to blow, but you can see the accumulating water on the patio. All furniture and toys (anything loose) is put in the garage and the swingset is secured. That was before we knew it would be more like "summer breeze" than "evil gusts."

That back corner is the pond (behind the bushes, by the picnic table). It was getting so low (the water) that we worried for the fish. But, you can't put tap water in there or it might kill the fish because the chlorine level is so high. Contemplate that one for a moment.

So far, big excitement is a branch (small) on the lawn.

10:15 Update TS Edouard---the storm hits

Sheets of rain, solid wind, nothing worrisome, but at least something interesting.


4 PM After the storm headed west

First thing we checked...the pond:
Overflow all across the back. Bad news: fish are not too smart and are happily swimming all over the backyard. Good news: they don't cost much, reproduce quickly, and the entire yard is draining back to this area, and then the water is flowing through the channels back into the pond, which might save a lot of fish lives and landscaping issues. (See next photos to see water moving back to pond.) Also, it means the pond is working for drainage.

Yes, the fence is so newly installed it still has tags on it.

Next, down to the lake/bayou to have a look at the water level (and to get out of the house) (my God to get OUT OF THE HOUSE):

Looking out to sea, across the lake, looking towards the Bay, you can see the cloud break:

Some standing water, not bad:

And, of course, some gratuitous shots of the beautiful children and dog:

We'll see if we get anything from the other edge.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hump Day Hmm on Saturday and giving new meaning the phrase "crapped on my day"

On Tuesday I drove out of town to visit family. The kids have been guilting me mightily about working, so I endeavor to make sure each day contains something fun for them, and that each week contains a day for them.

As we drove down a major Houston highway, I noticed that despite the clear blue sky, it seemed to be raining, starting with a light drizzle and slowly but surely escalating to a view obscuring downpour. Believe it or not, this isn't unusual here, especially this time of year. What was unusual was the color of the rain: brown, like mud.

It took about ten seconds but my brain quickly processed that this wasn't a rain storm, nor was it coming from the sky.

It was brown muck coming from the improperly covered 18-wheeler ahead of me on the highway. Suddenly, the loose canvas covering the top of the truck flipped up, completely open in the back now, and suddenly, an enormous load of brown muck coated my car. I couldn't see anything through the front windshield. I went into lifesaving multitasking mode.

SLOW DOWN

MAKE NO SUDDEN MOVES

USE AVAILABLE SIGHT

TURN ON WIPERS

TELL CHILDREN TO STOP THAT SHRIEKING

OPEN MOUTH IN SILENT SCREAM

LOOK AT CAR NEXT TO ME AND NOTE THEIR MOUTHS OPEN IN SILENT SCREAMS

THANK GOD FOR ANTI-LOCK BRAKES AND FOUR WHEEL DRIVE

CURSE FLORIDA DRIVERS WHO DRIVE ALONGSIDE BIG ASS TRUCKS (THAT ARE DUMPING THEIR LOAD) TRAPPING A HALF DOZEN CARS

THANK GOD FOR DIVINELY SLAPPING FLORIDA DRIVERS UPSIDE THE HEAD CAUSING THEM TO GET OUT OF THE EFFING WAY

THANK GOD BIG ASS LOAD DUMPING TRUCK MOVES OVER INTO OTHER LANE

QUICKLY PASS BIG ASS LOAD DUMPING TRUCK

TURN TO LOOK AT TRUCK TO SHOOT THE INTERNATIONAL SALUTE OF DISRESPECT

FORGET HAND GESTURES WHEN YOU READ THE LOGO ON THE TRUCK'S DOOR

COMMENCE OWN LOUD SHRIEKING THAT DROWNS OUT KIDS

BECAUSE...

That truck?

It was a BFI Waste Treatment Truck.

Do you know what that means got dumped all over my car and the highway? THAT'S RIGHT! EXCREMENT!

HUMAN DISEASE-RIDDEN WASTE!

Patience says, "Mommy, what's the smell? It...stinks!!!!"

Say, with dawning horror, "It's...it's OUR CAR."

BEGIN GAGGING

PICK UP EMERGENCY BATCELLPHONE AND CALL SISTER. GET VOICEMAIL.

"You have to find me a car wash. I'm at [undisclosed location] and I need a car wash RIGHT NOW. Look it up on the Internet, anywhere I don't care. I don't even care if it's environmentally friendly, just FIND ME A PLACE TO CLEAN MY CAR! CALL ME!"

CALL HUSBAND. GET VOICEMAIL. REPEAT SAME MESSAGE.

REALIZE YOU HAVEN'T EXPLAINED WHY. CALL BACK BOTH.

"It's me. I need a car wash because a truck dumped SH....EE ummm SH....AW ummmm poop all over my car," I said, meanwhile, the Echo Sisters in the back chorused, "POOP POOP POOPIE DOOP! OUR CAR IS COVERED IN POOP!!! YUCK!!!" Then, while Persistence inhaled to start chanting this again, Patience ad libbed, "And our car STINKS to HIGH HEAVEN!"

I realized created a little bit of a Beat Poetry performance art thing, centered around poop, which pretty much sums up my life. That's when my ovedeveloped sense of the ridiculous began kicking in. I may have begun giggling, possibly a little hysterically.

When I finally arrived at my sister's house, the waste had dried on my car, and had also begun baking in the heat, emitting an even fouler odor. Using wipies a la Monk, I opened and shut the door, instructing the children to stay put.

I went inside and demanded my sister get me plastic gloves and other protective coverings, then went back outside to rescue the children form the poopmobile.

"DON'T TOUCH DON'T TOUCH," I shrieked. Intrigued, the other children began pouring out of the house. I shouted, "STAY BACK! This is HAZARDOUS MATERIAL!"

"Ewwwwwww," they all cried, "It STINKS!"

I looked sadly at my poor little car.

Later, I took it to a carwash. I put it through. It came out. I scrubbed it. I put it through again. I scrubbed it again. It still has bits here and there, and I haven't even looked under the hood.

Kind gives new meaning to the phrase, "crapped on my day."

As I told the story, it got more and more vivid and more and more funny, and that's when I realized that at some point, at heart, I really had begun thinking of stuff like this as "things that happen" instead of "things that happen to poor poor me."

We all get shat upon. Truly.

Later, when I was cooking a pizza and it got a bit burned, Patience said, "Oh, it's okay Mommy, it happens. Just cut that bit off and it'll be fine."

I realized that I was passing my hard-learned yet worthwhile lesson along to my kids, and I felt a little bit of all right.

Wash it off and drive on.

So...I'm sorry I didn't get the Hump Day linky up on Wednesday. I had a little crap to deal with. I'm pretty sure you guys all understand that well. :) But here it is now, and I hope you add yours in, whether you already wrote it or are also running a little late due to crap. I'll do my best to pump this up, okay?

Here's the topic, in case you missed it:
get your big kid britches on people, because I'm going to ask a lot of you and I hope you join in: what stunning realization has enlightened you recently or at some point in your life and caused you to take a turn, either in your life path or in your thinking? And...what happened next?

Here's the link spot where I hope a lot of you add yourselves in:


Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
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