Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More Than Words

I really didn't think there was anything else that Donald Trump could say or do that could shock me, but as I listened to him defend American Nazis, I was sad and fearful of my and my family's safety and future.

Years ago, I watched a tv interview with shock talk show host Jerry Springer.  Jerry's parents were Holocaust survivors.  At some point, his mother pulled him aside and asked him to talk to his father about getting rid of the family car.  She was worried that the elder Mr. Springer was getting way too old to drive, and would get into an accident.  Jerry talked to his father, but the elder was adamant about keeping the vehicle.  After much prodding from his son, he finally told Jerry that he had to keep the car in case he ever had to get away.

This story is not an anomaly.  I've heard of many survivors who kept a packed suitcase in their closet containing cash, clothes, maps, and important phone numbers in case they, also, had to get away.  This is the long-standing trauma of anti-Semitism and fascism.  

I watched tv in horror on Friday night as angry men with torches screaming "Jews Will Not Replace Us", "You (African Americans) Will Not Replace Us", and "Blood and Soil" (which is a rally cry from the Third Reich).  It is 2017 and this is my country, and this should not be happening.  What happened the next day was far worse.  Violence, beatings, war cries, murder.

The next 24 hours brought no relief as I was inundated with comments about AntiFa and Black Lives Matter.  Many with Right-leaning beliefs claimed that both groups were there, and were just as violent.  I had to Google AntiFa, because I had never heard of this group prior to Sunday, as I suspect many hadn't either.  It turns out that AntiFa, which is short for anti-fascism, is mainly active in South America.  There are minimal chapters here in the U.S., but this movement in the U.S. is relatively small.

As a matter of self preservation and blatant curiosity, I keep tabs on many different underground groups.  I've sat across the table from a Confederate Hammerskin, I've had coffee with the LaRouche supporters, I've read extensively about the Weather Underground, I'm familiar with many groups on the Right, but even more on the Left, and until Sunday, I had never heard of AntiFa.  Could it be, because this group is merely an explain-away invented by the Alt-Right media to use as a false equivalency for the actions of their Nazi groups?  Now, more than ever, this appears to be the case.

The president's response to the crisis in Charlottesville was pathetic.  What came a couple of days later was too little, too late, but what happened today was inexcusable.  This president has two White Nationalist advisors who have, likely, been in his ear for the past 24 hours, and today's press conference was the result.  Never in my lifetime did I think I would hear an American president explain away the violent actions of Nazis.  He said that their gathering on Friday night was peaceful.  He said that some are very good people.  He said that their actions were no worse than anyone else's.

Johanna Altvater Zelle was known to Jews in the Vladimir-Volynsky ghetto in the Ukraine as "Fraulein Hanna".  She regularly went through the ghetto targeting Jewish children.  Survivors would tell stories about Fraulein Hanna beckoning a toddler to come to her, picking that toddler up and squeezing him tightly until he screamed.  She then grabbed him by the legs, and with full force, smashed the toddler into the ghetto wall killing him.  She would carry candy in one pocket and a pistol in the other.  She would tell the Jewish children to open their mouths for candy, then put the pistol in instead and pull the trigger.  She was tried twice, and acquitted for war crimes.

When I read about her, I was angry.  There were many, many others like her who got away with murder.  I wondered how others could stand by and watch this unfold and explain it away or do nothing.  This was, of course, before Saturday, and before the "AntiFa/BLM boogieman" comments on Sunday, and before 45 made his speech today.  Richard Spencer, one of the organizers of the "Unite the Right" hate rally and proud American Nazi, bragged that he and his Nazis could beat the counter protestors to death with their bare hands.  There is precedent for this, because others, like Fraulein Hanna, did.

There are many people of color, fellow Jews, LGBTQ people, and others feeling like they need a plan to get away.  When I first heard of the Holocaust survivors with their suitcases in their closets, my instinct was to want to take their hands, lean in and tell them that they don't need to worry about getting away, they are in America, they are safe, and this will never happen again.  Now, as I sit here, nervously typing, I'm wondering if I should pack a suitcase.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

No Such This as Frenemies

I am particularly disturbed by the term "frenemies".  Apparently these people are friends who are also enemies.  Aside from the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, as you can only be one or the other,  it seems that this contradictory moniker only applies to women and girls.

Girl bullying has always been different from boy bullying.  When boys want to bully one another they mainly use physical violence and intimidation, whereas girls use emotional and mental abuse.  Those of us gals who grew up before bullying became an issue of concern for adults know what it's like to be excluded by the group, called names like "slut" and "whore" behind our backs, and have judgement cast upon us for unfounded reasons.  The boys who grew up with us know what it's like to be slammed into lockers, punched in the face, or thrown down to the ground.

Boy bullying is very clear cut, and seems to have a finite end.  Once the male bully has shown dominance, much like in the animal kingdom, he seems to go away.  Girl bullying can last a lot longer and there may never be a real clear cut end.  This is my guess as to the origin of the term "frenemy".

She hangs around with you, is on your social media friends list, maybe throws a genuine compliment your way once in awhile.  Every time you see her, she seems pleasant enough, but smiles while giving backhanded compliments.  She also talks behind your back, messages your common friends encouraging them to get together without you, and, at worst, will catfish you just for fun.  If you confront her, she will never admit that she hates you or even dislikes you.  She is a "frenemy".

I'm not cool with this, and I'm prepared to call it what it was back when I was growing up; this is a two-faced bitch who hates you.  She is the fox in the henhouse, and her bullshit should not be tolerated.

I'm angry that the whole concept of a "frenemy" exists, because I'm having to deal with it right now with my younger daughter.  We have come to a point in our world where we try to teach children that everyone is their friend.  On paper, this sounds great.  In a perfect world, everyone would be friends with everyone else.  However, this is completely unrealistic.  Human beings have personality differences, they like different things, and forcing children to befriend each other results in bullshit like "frenemies".

When my older daughter was experiencing this, there was no such thing as a "frenemy".  My advice to her was to not put up with bullying and intimidation.  I taught her the incredible power of the bluff, how to violate personal space to catch your enemy off guard, and the spectacular tool of lowering the volume of your voice.  There is nothing more effective than getting 2-3 inches away from someone's face and quietly telling them that you've had enough of their shit.  It lets them know that you are done.

I told my older daughter that she didn't have to be friends with everyone, she just had to be polite and respectful.  If someone did not return the politeness and respect, she was not obligated to give them the time of day.  She didn't have to be mean or give them dirty looks or insult them behind their back, she could just pretend that they didn't exist.  This was such a liberating concept to her.

Last year, we had a similar discussion in relation to social media.  There were three girls from her school always bragging about their "wonderful" friendship, while specifically excluding and taunting others not in their petite circle.  It was making my daughter feel bad, so I told her to "unfriend" them. It was like this had never occurred to her.  I told her she was not obligated to follow people who make others, specifically her, feel like shit.  She didn't need that negativity in her life.  She unfollowed all three, and felt great about it.

Now, I'm trying to coach my little, 7 year old daughter out of the "frenemies" sinkhole.  The first thing I made clear was that there is no such thing as a "frenemy".  "Frenemies" do not exist.  Either someone is your friend, because they are nice and kind, they like to play with you, share your interests, say nice things to you, cooperate when it comes to playing or projects or actives you both like to do, and want to make you as happy as you make them, or they are your enemy, because they make you feel bad, they exclude you, they say nasty things about you behind your back, they try to turn your friends against you.  It doesn't matter if they are smiling while they are doing this, they are not your friend.

This is still a work in progress, and it seems like just one more thing that internalizes the misogyny that women always have to be pitted against one another, as I have never heard the term "frenemy" applied to a male relationship.  I get really sick of watching backbiting women on reality tv smiling with full veneers on display at their so-called friends while in the next scene scheming behind their supposed friend's back.  And I really hate that my girls see this on tv, too.

In the golden age of activism against bullying, we need to include the concept of "frenemy" and confront the misogyny that helped birth this bastard in the first place.  I tell my girls that other girls are not their competition, that they should only compare themselves to themselves and not to their friends, because their friends have different DNA therefore comparisons are ludicrous.

My older daughter tried comparing her body type and weight to one of her classmates the other day.  I listened then asked one simple question, "Who is the classmate?".  Turned out it was a Chinese girl who is a half a foot shorter, and a Size 0.  I explained to my daughter that her comparison was ridiculous, because her friend is of Chinese descent, therefore, she will likely take after her parents and grandparents and always be shorter in stature and never get above a Size 4.  I reminded my daughter that her own family was mostly Russian and Italian, her paternal grandfather was over 6' tall, and both sides of her family were not made up of slight-boned, skinny people.

I extend this philosophy of self-competition to everything from looks to academics to extra curricular activities with both of my girls.  The goal shouldn't be to single out another girl and be better than her, it should be to best whatever you did last time.  I tell my girls that there will always be others that are better than them at everything, and instead of envy, contempt and anger, your goal should be to find out what they do that is better than you and learn from it.

While this is a sensible solution, it is a very uphill battle, because the world wants to pit people, particularly girls, against each other.  They want to have the "frenemy" scenario become that pattern for female friendships, because when women get together, we know they are the most powerful force on Earth, and this threatens the patriarchy.  They know if they can keep girls constantly questioning themselves and never feeling like they are good enough, then girls will hold themselves back.  And the thing that pisses me off the most, is that they disguise this toxicity as a form of friendship, which internalizes the idea that other women cannot be trusted.

Well, there are no "frenemies" on my watch, and try hard as they may, I'm one riotmom who is willing to do the work to keep her daughters "frenemy"-free, and focused on self-improvement rather than petty competition.

Monday, February 27, 2017

44 Reflections on the 44th Year

I turned 44 today.  In other words, as of waking up this morning, I was no longer considered to be in my early 40s.  I have now crossed over into the category of mid-40s.

By this time in my mother's life, she had just had brain surgery to remove a tumor, and told me that she would be looking forward to finishing treatment and celebrating in 5 years when she would get her last scan that, she believed, would come back clean.  It never happened, the brain tumor came roaring back, and she died 2 weeks after her 49th birthday.  I don't think there is a birthday that I will have clear through the rest of my 40s and into my 50s where I won't think of this as a perspective on my own age.

Since I'm feeling reflective on this day, I thought I'd give 44 short reflections on this life I've had so far.

1. When I was in the 1st grade, I remember sitting at my desk looking at a poster of all of the presidents and wondering why none of them were women.  I'm still waiting.

2. I read the book "Grease" when I was 12 and thought that Danny should have picked Marty, because she was far more interesting.

3. Beavis and Butthead was a must right before pulling an all-nighter to study when I was in college.

4. I remember my friend, Kori, and I staying up all night when we were 16, because we had done our hair and it turned out perfectly.  We wanted to go to the mall the next day with that great hair.

5. After spending the first weekend hanging out with my husband, I remember my roommate telling me that I "floated" into the house.  She told me that she knew I would end up with him, and so did I.

6. I remember watching some of the most amazing bands from the PacNW in the 1990s at a little club called Crazy Horse in Boise, Idaho including Fastbacks, 7 Year Bitch, Coffin Break, Dinosaur Jr, Tad,  Mother Love Bone, Sleater Kinney, Hammerbox, Mudhoney, Flop, Green Apple Quick Step, and yes, Nirvana.

7. I always loved the intro to the Wonder Woman show when she said, "You have little regard for womanhood, you must learn respect." then punched the guy in the face.

8. Riding my 10-speed bike around Nampa, Idaho when I was a teenager was my idea of freedom.

9. I remember wondering why it was so easy for that crazy Hinckley to get a gun and shoot the president.

10. I remember growing up in a rural community where owning a gun was no big deal, because every body had one, and you damn sure didn't treat it like a toy.

11. I planned my first event at age 16.  It was a battle of the bands talent show for the Art Club, and I made every mistake possible.

12. I was taking a nap when the news came on tv that Kurt Cobain was dead.  My boyfriend woke me up, and we stared at the tv in disbelief.  We went to Grainy's Basement in Boise that night and did shots of Jagermeister with a room full of sad, silent people.

13. I remember cutting class with my friend, Missy, to go to the Idaho State capital building to protest the fact that Idaho refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day as an official holiday.  We were 17.

14. I remember the last conversation I had with my grandmother.  It was 2 weeks after I was married, and I called her while working late one night.  We had a circular conversation where I repeated myself several times, because she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and kept asking the same questions.

15. I used to buy cigarettes out of a machine on the second floor of the Karcher Mall for $1.50 per pack.  I hid them in my pencil case and we smoked them out in the tennis courts at West Jr. High.  The only adult they ever sent out to talk to us was a school guidance counselor who was an avid smoker himself, and was also one of my dad's poker buddies.  We never got in trouble.

16. The first time I read "1984", I knew it was one of the most important books I would ever read.  I reread it every few years.  I'm about due again.

17. I had never felt so strange as I did in the hours right after I gave birth to Rachael.  She was next to me, but I couldn't stop thinking about her and wondering if she was comfortable and okay.  Two days later, she was still all I could think about.  I told my mother about this, and she said it would never go away.  It still hasn't.

18. I was standing in the middle of the floor at the Bank of America Center during Queensryche's soundcheck.  Just me.  I closed my eyes and smiled, and when I opened them, Geoff Tate had been watching me.  He smiled, and looked at me while singing for the next minute.  I thought my heart was going to explode.  It was a fan's ultimate dream.

19. Jeff took me to New Orleans for my 43rd birthday and we had dinner at Commander's Palace.  It was one of the best meals I've ever eaten.

20. Watching the Ramones perform at Bumbershoot in the late 90s was a wonderful bucket list show I will never forget.

21. I had just started working for the Museum of Flight in Seattle and it was my first fundraising auction.  I saw a 'Day on the Set with Harrison Ford' package sell for $85,000 and was nearly ready to pass out.  I purchased my first home for $82,000.

22. I shed a few tears the night Barack Obama was elected, because I really didn't think our country would actually shed its racism and elect him.  Unfortunately, I would shed many tears of anger in the years to follow as I watched our country's racism rear its ugly head every time he tried to get anything done.

23. I was a diehard Republican from a Republican family until I moved to Seattle.  After living in Seattle for 6 months and having a better standard of living than I had ever experienced, I embraced liberalism, and have never looked back.

24. I remember escorting a teenager into the women's clinic when a tall, fat man with a beard wearing a yellow t-shirt screamed in my ear that Jesus was going to send me straight to Hell.  I muffled my laugh, got the girl inside the clinic, burst out laughing, and told her that I didn't have the heart to tell that guy that I was Jewish and we don't believe in Hell.  She was at the clinic getting birth control pills and treatment for an STD.

25. I remember being consumed with rage after going out of my way to get out of class early, arrange a ride with my roommate to get to Planned Parenthood to have my annual pap smear only to have my appointment cancelled, because some asshole had phoned in a bomb threat.  I was in my sophomore year of college.  It would take me another two months to get to a make up appointment.

26. Stealing a package of Chocodiles from my dad's stash was always one of my favorite things to do.

27. The first time I had to sue an employer for shorting me on wages and benefits, I lost, but I didn't lose the second time I had to do it.  Three years later, I would start my own business.

28. Fantasy Island and Star Trek were some of my favorite shows when I was a little kid, because anything could happen.

29. I'll never be able to thank Ray Missouri enough for introducing me to Blondie, Sex Pistols, and Pink Floyd when I was in the 2nd grade.  My mom had to have surgery, we had no family to stay with, so CPS put us in a foster home with the Missouri Family.  Ray was their adopted, teenage son who took it upon himself to educate me on what constituted "good music".

30. The first video I saw on MTV was Black Sabbath's "Paranoid".  It's still my favorite Sabbath song to this day.

31. Jeff and I traveled to New York City less than a year before the Towers came down.  We rode the train passing through the bottom floor and I commented that the last time I was there, when I was 19, you couldn't go near the Towers, because they had been bombed.  I told him that they had re-built them so well you'd never would have known they were bombed.

32.  Jerusalem was magic.  I've never felt that way about any place I've ever visited.  I'm a skeptic at heart, and a bit of a cynic, but there hasn't been a day that has gone by since I've been there that I haven't wished I could go back.

33. The moment I realized that I couldn't make a living in the music industry, because the business was changing too rapidly and there was no stability in it was one of the worst moments of my life.  I cried hysterically while on the phone to my mom.  Up to that point in my life, it was all I had ever wanted to do.  A few months later, I ended up in the nonprofit world, but it took me years to feel like I belonged there.

34. Every now and again I think I was too old when I had Shayna.  She has a difficult personality, and is very stubborn and persistent, which are things much easier dealt with at a younger age.  She is 7 1/2 and still comes into our room to sleep in our bed at night.  We are both too tired to kick her out and deal with the tantrum.  We just figure she will age out of it.

35. I saw the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) at a drive-in, and was ecstatic when I got the Luke, Leah, and Darth Vader action figures for my birthday.  I was 6 years old.

36. My favorite video games to play at the arcade when I was in the 3rd grade were Asteroids and Ms. Pac Man.  Now video games look like movies.

37. I never got into Dungeons & Dragons in high school, but once pretended to be into it just to get a guy to like me.  It didn't last, and I felt stupid about faking my D&D interest for several years after that.

38. I was never afraid to fly after 9/11.  Jeff and I went to Buenos Aires a month after the attack.  I emailed my mom everyday from the business center at the hotel to assure her that I was safe, and called her the moment we got back to Seattle.  My feeling always was that once we alter the way we live, the terrorists win.

39. Turning 40 was the only age I had ever dreaded, but the morning of my 40th birthday I woke up not giving a damn about pleasing anyone.  I had shed every ounce of the need to be liked, to please people who didn't matter to my life, and to deal with bullshit.  My biggest regret since then is not having had this attitude a heck of a lot sooner in life.

40. I knew the moment my mom passed away that I would be burying my dad within 5 years.  She took care of him, and all of his health issues.  I knew he wouldn't treat his health as well.  He died 4 1/2 years after she did.

41. I used to stand next to the tv in my room on Sunday night with the volume turned down to 2, so I could watch the "Young Ones".  I was in high school, and it came on past my bedtime, but I loved that show.

42. Watching Rachael do her Torah reading during her bat mitzvah was one of the best things I've ever seen.  I have always been proud of my girls, but on that day, it was the most proud I had ever been of anything in my life, including my own accomplishments.

43. I've never not liked cartoons.  I watched them when I was a little kid on Saturday morning (Flintstones, Space Ghost, Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny), when I was an older little kid when Fox got its broadcast license (Inspector Gadget, He-Man), I watched them when I was in college (Ren & Stimpy, Beavis & Butthead, Aeon Flux, Liquid Television), and I watch them now (Family Guy, Robot Chicken, American Dad).  It will be interesting to see what cartoons I'll be watching when I'm in the old folks home.

44. I've done a lot I regret.  I've done a lot that I'm proud of.  I spend every day trying my best to take care of my family, contribute to my community, and make the world a better place, while trying to improve myself.  This will be my mandate for the foreseeable future, and if I can be a change agent in the process, I'm good with that, too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Disgusting Art of Appeasement

Not too many things in this world piss me off worse than appeasement.  Appeasement is the willful act of giving up on your wants, needs, and own best interests to try to please the other party in the naive belief that once you have given enough, the other party will be satisfied enough to treat you better or meet you halfway.  Appeasement, also, never works, and nowhere do we see the failure of appeasement more than when it is applied in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The demands for appeasement mostly come from the Left, which has a tendency to blame Israel for everything while framing the Palestinians as the constant victims.  In framing the Palestinians as constant victims this sets up a very unproductive dynamic in which Israel is always wrong and the Palestinians are always right, which becomes harder to explain when you see the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority absconding funds, cancelling elections, appointing leadership without the say of the people, and focusing their resources on destroying Israel rather than building industry and infrastructure for their own people.

Time after time, the Left demands that Israel appease the Palestinians by giving up land, safety, funds, and more.  Israel gives in and appeases only to be told that they haven't done enough, and this is usually followed by more demands for appeasement.

The Left's obsession with Palestinian sovereignty is perplexing, because it flies in the face of everything the Left supposedly stands for.  Under a sovereign Palestinian government, homosexuality would be outlawed and punishable by death, other religions would be illegal, women and minorities would be second class citizens, and the West would likely be targeted as enemies.

Israel, on the other hand, is the embodiment of Leftist ideals with universal healthcare and education. Women are full and equal participants, minorities are given equal status, other religions are accepted and welcome, and the only gay pride parade happening in the Middle East is in Tel Aviv.  Yet the Left can never be appeased enough.

Lest I focus my ire squarely on the appeasement demanded by the Left, there is a much quieter, sinister appeasement that is happening right now on the Right.  Lately, the Right has taken the reigns as the champions of Israel.  Jews all over the U.S. are flocking to vote for Right Wing candidates who, publicly, can't proclaim their love of Israel enough.  In voting for candidates on the Right, American Jews are engaging in a far more dangerous appeasement.

Aside from their proclamation of fiscal responsibility, which hasn't really been seen since prior to the Reagan era, the platform of the Right does not align with Jewish values.  They are not accepting of homosexuals, minorities, and women, they don't believe in providing healthcare, social security or a basic safety net, they are not champions of education, and are all about rewarding a vulture capitalist system that destroys communities and leaves the majority in the dust.  These are not Jewish values, yet time and time again, we watch leaders in the Jewish community embrace the Right in hopes that the U.S. will continue to support Israel.

This kowtowing appeasement has been particularly disgusting given who is in power and the actions of the new Trump Administration.  Steve Bannon gave the new Neo Nazi movement, revamped with the shiny, new name, Alt-Right, a strong presence on the internet.  He has also promoted fake news, and his political tactics seem to be borrowed straight from the Goebbels handbook.  The sweeping, and unAmerican travel ban, hit many people in the gut, especially Jews, because during WWII, we were the ones turned away from the safety offered in the U.S.  Of course those on the Right will rush in and say that the Administration is very Jew-friendly, because Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller are in top positions, but never forget there were many Jews in Germany during the late 1930s who believed their status and money would keep them safe.  They worked with Nazis believing that if they appeased the Nazi radicals, they would be spared.  Again, appeasement led to death.

The truth is that the Christian Evangelicals on the Right; the ones who are quick to point out the sin in others, but managed to look past the sinful life of Donald Trump, in order to seize power, are no friends to Israel.  In order for their messiah to come, all Jews have to return to Israel to die, so is this really a group we want to appease?

Negotiations with clear and objective goals, willful compromising on both sides, a mutual understanding of common interests, the elimination of extremists on all sides, all of those things are reasonable and should be the foundation for establishing peace and ending the conflict, but appeasement should be avoided at all costs, because, in the end, no one ever wins the appeasement game.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Lost 24 Years

A few years ago I contemplated heading back to work full-time, so I took a position that was temporary with the option of permanency.  I was there for about two months when I did a sit-down with the big boss and argued that my position should be eliminated right before turning in my notice.  In my other life as a do-gooder, honesty is always the policy I go with.

In my do-gooder life, I put together big fundraising events for worthy causes as a way to make the world a better place.  In my life as a punk, I relish watching certain segments of the world burn while I eat popcorn.  On some levels, I'm sure I'm a head shrinker's dream.

Getting back to the temporary position, while at the job I would talk myself out of, I worked with a woman who was about in her mid-50s, and had been doing events for years, and she was done.  It was the first time in my life that I realized there would come a day when I just didn't want to do events anymore.

Fast forward three years to this past Wednesday where I was sitting in Day 2 of a three-day grant writing class.  It was a small, nine person class for nonprofit professionals, so there was great shop talk, and schmoozing.  Everyone, except me, worked for a nonprofit organization, and I think they were a bit skeptical about who I was, because I was a dreaded "consultant".  By Day 2, they knew that, not only, did I know my stuff, I knew quite a bit about the nonprofit world, in general.

At the end of the class, a nice young man from a great organization came up and asked me why I wasn't in a director level position at a high profile nonprofit.  This is a question I have grappled with, and have asked myself several times.  I have the experience, the professional accomplishment, and sometimes, the desire, but there is one reason why I'm not at a major organization collecting a six-figure salary and doing million dollar events: my girls.

I told him that I choose to work as a consultant, because it affords me the freedom of schedule needed to pick my kids up everyday from school, schlep them to their activities, do all of the mom volunteering, and be there for them 95% of the time.  I told him that I had a 13 year old and a 7 year old, and he thought about it, and said, "that's a 24 year gap".

24 years seems like a very long time, and to this young man, who was unmarried with no kids, and likely in his mid-20s, the idea of suspending a career for 24 years is probably unimaginable.  What this young man doesn't understand is that, in the big scheme of things, spending 18 years raising a child doesn't seem like 18 years.  18 is a big number when thinking about years, but it flies by in the day-to-day of raising kids.  My oldest is 13, and in 5 years she will be heading off to college, and the major part of my job will be over.  5 years will fly by.

If someone would have told me when I was in my mid-20s that I would choose to forego a lucrative career to raise kids, I would have thought they were crazy, but here I am and this is what I'm doing.  Some days, particularly when my 7 year old is driving me up a wall, the years can't go by quick enough, then other days I pine for the times when my girls were babies, and I could snuggle them close while they slept in my arms.

I'm not an executive director or vice president of a high-level nonprofit organization, but my daughter told me today that she thinks I'm the bravest person she knows.  In 11 years, I will be 55 and an empty nester.  I could step back into the 9-to-5 world and run a prestigious nonprofit, but I think I'll transition into grant writing, because you can do that from anywhere.  I'll spend my precious years before the AARP card traveling and writing grants in the mornings on my laptop while dressed in a billowy, comfortable kaftan, sipping tea, and listening to the Misfits.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Food By The Bucket

Some days, I feel like dinner around my house has become a bit of a holy war.  On one side, the mom who wants to feed her family nutritious, vitamin-rich, locally grown organic food, on the other side, the family who would love to spend the entire meal eating processed, barely identifiable crap.

My children have accused me of taking away their childhood, because I won't buy them sugary cereal with cartoon characters parading across brightly colored boxes.  I have been told I am mean and terrible, because I don't buy Doritos, Lays, Cheetos, Twinkies, and Fruit by the Foot (which, upon reading the box, one would notice that the only mention of "fruit" is in the title).  I am the mean, non-fun mom, because I opt for the organic, healthy juice boxes instead of the watery, artificially flavored, corn syrup concoctions that pass as "fruit" drinks (there's that word again, in title only).

I'm not a complete stickler, we do make our way through a drive thru every now and again for burgers or donuts, but for the most part, I opt for healthy food.  About 3 years ago, I switched to organic meat, because I was tired of the headlines about the amount of hormones and additives that were being pumped into our meat supply.  My husband wasn't too happy at first, because organic meat is three times the price, but with the uptick in expense, I was forced to get real about portion size.  The average household throws away 30% of the food they bring into the house to consume, so buying something more expensive forced me to become more efficient.

Shortly after the meat, I switched to organic fruits and veggies, again, becoming very conscious of how much we actually consumed versus what my perception of what was consumed.  I became a fierce reader of labels using the 5 ingredient rule; if there are more than 5 ingredients and most are unidentifiable and hard to pronounce, then you don't want it.  I made an initiative to cook at home more, and be the healthy example I never had growing up.

My mother did many things right, but the one thing she really nurtured in me and my siblings was an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food.  Mom taught us that food was a great activity when you were bored, food was a fantastic way to celebrate, food was good for when you had the blues, and that "you don't have to be hungry to eat" was more than a catchy phrase.  Tens of thousands of dollars wasted on weight loss and dieting and 32 years later, it's still a daily struggle.  A struggle that I do not want to pass on to my kids.

Yes, I'm the healthy mom, but I also let them have unhealthy food about 10% of the time.  I try to educate them about moderation, and teach them about reading food labels.  However, health is an uphill battle in a country that celebrates the "never ending pasta bowl".  The other night I asked my 7 year old what she wanted for dinner, and she enthusiastically told me about a magical place called KFC where they give you a whole bucket of chicken.  Her friends had told her how great it was, because the chicken comes in a real bucket.  A whole bucket of chicken!

Food, health, not consuming a whole bucket of chicken, all uphill battles that I hope I'm winning.  For my part I'm going to continue to be the healthy mom, the mom who opts for the organic over the chemical, the mom who reads the labels and says a lot of "no" at the grocery store.  I'm sure I'll get a fair amount of pushback, but to all of this I say; too freakin' bad!

Yes, I'm the mom who doesn't let you suck on GMO corn stick puffs flavored with cheese-like dust.  I'm the mom who cuts up watermelon after school instead of shoving a corn syrup popsicle colored with Red 40 dye in your face.  I'm the mom who gives your friends carrot sticks instead of candy, and I refuse to apologize for it.  And maybe, someday, when you and your friends don't have cancer, you will thank me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

FACTS!?! Who the Hell Needs Facts!

I left Facebook nearly a week ago, but ventured back on while I was sitting on my laptop waiting to be called for jury duty.  I was hoping some ounce of sanity had returned, but, much like having coffee with an ex to reminisce about the old times, it took two seconds for me to realize why I left.

Just look.  Scroll down.  Keep scrolling.  Don't comment.  Seriously, do not comment.

What a bunch of crap!  Now, I have to comment.

It was an article by some Nooz site (I call it Nooz, because the news is still valid and these sites are anything but), that identified itself by the color of state it represented, which is usually the first hint that whatever is printed is going to be some bullshit.  This particular article talked about the good side of Trump's immigration ban; the fact that during the "extreme vetting" an immigrant would be questioned about whether or not they have participated in honor killings, and that thanks to this clause in the immigrant ban, the bad Muslims who harm women, would be kept away from our country.

Of course, I had to take the opportunity to comment about the fact that the countries with the highest rates of honor killings, Female Genital Mutilation, and forced underage marriage were not included in Trump's immigration ban.  Also, thanks to this immigration ban, NGOs and nonprofits who are actually on the ground helping women who are victims of this brutality, are now having to go back to the drawing board, in terms of implementing their program, because they aren't able to move their people as easily.

The moment I hit the "enter" key, I knew that I had been sucked down the rabbit hole, but it wasn't for long, because my comment was promptly deleted.  A few weeks ago, a friend of mine began purging her Facebook friends, and wiped out all of the Trumpsters.  It caused quite a stir amongst our common friends, and, at the time, I wondered if it was the right thing to do.  Now I know, I just hadn't gotten there yet.

Fake Nooz enables us to affirm everything we make up in our heads.  Obama is a Muslim who took the Oath of Office on a copy of the Koran?  Here's the fake Nooz site to confirm for you.  Hillary had over 50 people murdered?  Must be true if there are two fake Nooz sites and a Reddit feed that says so.  Trump orders the firing of all Muslim federal employees.  Of course, there's a fake Nooz site that has the story, so it must be true.

I get it.  There is nothing more awesome than the feeling of being right, and shoving the fact that you are right in someone else's face.  Even the most pious, humble person loves to be right.  However, we are in a very precarious time when everyone's need to be right is usurping reality, and that is dangerous.  I'm finding it more and more to be commonplace that when an honest news source prints an honest news story, those commenting accuse the news source of being "fake" and that the story is "not believable".  There is a rampant belief, instilled by the current administration, that credible news sources cannot be trusted, and this leads to the question, if we cannot trust credible news sources, then who can we trust.

I can get online right now and find over a dozen fake Nooz sites that will tell me exactly what I want to believe, but they are not right, and although it feels good to have my beliefs affirmed, I don't want to live in a world of "yes" men.  During my first venture into adulthood, I studied journalism.  I took hours of classes learning the history of journalism, studying ethics, pouring over hundreds of pages of legal rulings regarding stories, journalists, and how the news is made and covered.  I wrote for my college newspaper, I freelanced for other publications, I discussed real time news stories in a newsroom, I conducted interviews, and I copy edited articles for other writers.  I was a trained journalist.

There is a reason why journalism is a profession, and we need to stop this bleeding of the need to have our own theories affirmed through crap Nooz sites, and start doing due diligence.  Most of us take pride in the fact that we practice honesty with our friends and family.  We don't like lying to the people we love, so why do we share Nooz that we all know, deep down, is fake?  It is the same as spreading a lie, and it is causing our society to deteriorate.

When I left Facebook, I immediately subscribed to the New York Times.  I took my credit card and paid for a subscription, like back in the olden days when we got our news through papers.  The convenience of the online news is great, but the abundance of fake Nooz has become our country's most dangerous addiction, and it's time for us, as a nation, to break this addiction.  Sure, dessert is amazing, and we all love to eat it, but if we think we can keep eating nothing but dessert and not get fat, then we are not only delusional, we're just plain stupid.