Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Worked all day and nothing to show for it

Ever noodle around on an idea all day and never manage to complete it?
The challenge of posting everyday .... posting quality every day is a worthwhile goal, but in reality I don't always find something to communicate. Or I can't figure out how to say it. Or it turns out to be too private for the interwebs.
Today its one of those days. Take that! #nablopomo

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'm making videos and I need your help!

My ardent fans (aka Mother) already know that I've been making videos this week. I want to do more of them because they communicate more quickly... and that's the direction internet communications is headed.

They are all super short and, I hope, fun. I'd love you to take 10 minutes to watch them all then vote for your favorite below:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Learning Curve for Parents of Special Needs Children

Being the parent of a special needs kid is a continual learning curve. Unless you were raised alongside someone who has significant emotional, behavioral or intellectual challenges, trying to cross the chasm between you and your child requires you to continually make blind leaps out of your own comfort zone.

I, for one, never know whether my children are behaving normally for their age. Do I adjust my expectations to meet them at their level? Do I always keep raising the bar in expectations or is there a limit? How do I know when I am pushing too hard? When am I letting too much slide?

For example, today I was playing Battleship with Miss (age 11). I remember having lots of fun playing this game at her age. My son was able to stand losing at her age. But for Miss, being able to play the game to the end when she is losing is a monumental emotional journey of self-control.
She is often seen by others as not having control of herself – angry outbursts, whining, constant opposition; alternatively, a need for constant, sustained attention (ex. 12 hours virtually non-stop one-on-one Mother/Daughter time yesterday.)

At first we had fun bantering and she was cool with that when she was winning, but when lost confidence that she’d be able to win, she couldn’t take it. Yet what I saw today was a child struggling to keep herself in the game when everything inside her was wanting to throw the board down and quit.
Her bright, happy smile was gone, replaced by a thundercloud frown, strident demands and plaintive whining. Yet still she stayed in the game until the last battleship was sunk and she had lost. Huge accomplishment: she was able to leave the room without shrieking, screaming, whining or yelling.
And this is enormous progress.

The ordinary parent might praise her child for staying in the game. I tried that, but it only made her more upset. Whenever she has any strong feelings, she shuts completely down. It will be difficult (or should I say, near impossible) for us to revisit what happened even after she calms down. She closes herself off emotionally so effectively it is darn near impossible to guide her or help her reflect.
Perhaps I’m taking an entirely wrong approach with her. That the armchair judging, back-seat-driving parenting “experts” are right. I often don’t trust myself to pick the right path, to assess the situation accurately.

I often find myself checking out. While I can’t physically withdraw myself from parenting (nor do I want to), I find myself mentally removing myself and emotionally pulling away. Part exhaustion, part self-preservation.

I rarely have enough time away to gain perspective. Instead, I find myself parenting on auto-pilot. (Cruise control sounds way too fun for the checked-out disassociating state I too often find myself in.)
Do I find parenting rewarding? I’d like to say yes, but to do so would be kind of like celebrating at mile 10 while running a marathon.

I know I'm not alone, but sometimes I fear your disapproval. I hope to see you cheering me along on the sidelines.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

You can skip reading this one

Just because
I said so.
Just because
I made a commitment to myself.
Just because
I have nothing to speak about.
Just because
There is only 10 minutes left in the day.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Barbie says, "It's Time to do the Laundry!"

Everyone needs to play a little, even moms. The other day I had a huge pile of laundry to do, endless rooms to vacuum, and dishes stacked in the sink to overflowing.

I could simply not motivate myself to get started. I found a Barbie in the laundry pile, began posting some photos of Barbie helping do the laundry on Instagram.

I tagged my photos #IdothissoIwillnotgoInsaneWhiledoingHousework.

When I was a girl, I always loved books with photos of dolls looking like they were alive. I thought I might make an InstaBook... but then I thought why not a YouTube series.

So today I whipped up a little video for Miss's amusement. Will she get motivated to do her chores this weekend?  Doubt it. Will this be the starting of something big? Nah. But I sure had fun taking the pictures, making the video and experimenting with telling a story a different way.

Added plus? My blog post for today practically wrote itself.  Please watch the video and let me know what you think, should I do more?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The closest I've ever come to praying: HeLa

I've been reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for so long I'm not sure if I've told you about it yet. It's the story of the real woman behind HeLa cells -- a cell culture that has been key to most cell research.

Chapter 32 tells the story of how her daughter and the author saw the cells for the first time. I felt moved to draw out some of the chapter for while it takes us on a scientific, historical journey, it also reveals the personal journey that the author, Rebecca Skloot, undertook as she learned the story behind these miracle cells that few people had heard of.

The author says of placing her hand on the big toe of John Hopkins' Jesus, it was "the closest I've ever come to praying."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#barbie says, "Read my Pix."

  • Raise your hand if you hate housework.
  • Raise your hand if you are one of those people who always has (at least) one room of her own in the state of complete disaster.
  • Raise your hand if you'd sell your soul to own a magic wand that would make all of your housework magically disappear.
  • Raise your hand if you've tried Mrs. PiggleWiggle's Cure for a Messy Room. In real life.

Is there any mother out there who hasn't raised her hand yet?

I'm currently running a series on Instagram with Naked Barbie doing the laundry. Don't worry, she'll put her clothes on soon, (though I have received positive feedback for her unclothed state).

My plan is to print them all out, post them on the fridge, wave my magic wand and miraculously the kids will start taking care of their chores without my nagging them.

On the other hand, my house is a lot cleaner when I find a way to combine housework and art. Think about it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paper or plastic? On a garbage management system

Seattle has been a bag-it-yourself city for several months now. I see myself, and others, finally getting used to bringing a bag when we go shopping, or willingly paying for one.

The reverberations from this change are subtle, but noticeable.

I used to have a handy supply of paper bags to take out the recyling and garbage in. Even though I use them over and over again  and only use the bag for garbage when it's seen its final use, I am starting to run low on paper bags. God forbid that I have to start BUYING plastic waste can bags!

I'm going to need to reassess my garbage processing unit.

Meanwhile my supply of reusable bags has been overflowing. They seem to stick to the children like marshmallow fluff sticks to the outside of the jar. I  handed off a bunch of mine to my ex adn the next thing I find is they've multiplied in the hall closet.

If you live in Seattle and have children, especially teens, you know what I'm talking about: compost management. Compost management includes sorting compostables three ways: for the green compost bin, for the yard waste, and for the chickens. (No, we don't have a worm bin.)

You also need to consider how many times a day (or week) you want to take out your compost. We take ours out daily, and sometimes even more frequently, because the kitchen is small and the smaller container is less likely to stink, grow mold and attract flies when left out on the counter.

You need to teach your children where to put what garbage. We are learning together. People still ask each other questions like, do you compost bones? Can I compost this coffee cup? I'm still not exactly sure about this one, except the cap goes in the recycling. Better pay attention next time I'm at Starbucks to see what they do.

By law (you know, those government-impositions on our freedoms that are good for us?), restaurants need to sort their waste. Bins with photos of what goes in which container greet you at every fast food biz in the city.

(My marketing brain notes that Starbucks has been inconsistent in how well this process is managed from store to store.  For a company that is trying to project a green image, they are missing the mark and fall well short of the bar that other companies with their compostable spoons have set.)

Since virtually everything else goes into recyclying, the amount of it is constantly threatening to overwhelm my dining room. It's not uncommon to have accumulated, in one day, three bags. (Yes, I take the paper.)

The most marvelous thing is that our children are growing up learning that this is how it is. They won't have to figure out which type of spoon is compostable and which isn't -- they've been doing science fair exhibits on PLA for years now.

I know from my travels to Northern Michigan, recycling has come a long way for the rest of the nation. But I also know they'll be in for a shock when the rest of them are forced to control the flow of garbage, or wind up overwhelmed by it. Some government regulations are a bit like the rules I set for my children. Sometimes they chafe, but they are always necessary.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Would you spend $25 for a lightbulb?

I did.  And here's why:

  • Non-toxic (no mercury like fluorescents)
  • Inexpensive over time
  • Excellent light qualilty
  • Dimmable
  • Instant "on"
  • They work in most fixtures

By 2014 the US plans to no longer sell incandescent bulbs. That give consumers just over a year to figure out what to replace them with.

Fluorescents take time to turn on, the light is harsh, they don't fit in some of my fixtures, they don't dim (and wear out faster if you have them on a dimmable switch), and worst, they run on mercury vapor. I'd hate to have one of those break in my face, wouldn't you?

I've tried out a lot of different bulbs over the past several years. These bulbs are expensive, but I figure if I purchase them slowly, it won't hurt so bad.

Will you try one?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Common Objects: the box

I have a box fetish

Not like I get all hot and bothered about boxes, (I know, I know) but I have a hard time throwing them out. One of my boxes is 35 years old. I used to have a box that had been around from a time before I was born.

I came by this craving honestly. My mother collected packing boxes. (Am I imagining it, or did she line a sweater box with wrapping paper from her wedding?)

The best were the citrus boxes we received from my Grandmother in Florida every Christmas. (There so many others of mom’s I could mention. Perhaps her blog fans will ask her to write about them soon. [Contact betsy.dole @] ) My mother gave me one of them recently, filled with my mildewed, ruined doll collection. Even I could see that the whole mess should go straight out into the garbage. The 30 year-old box included.

I have had to teach myself to throw away boxes. I’d be a box hoarder if I could, filling my basement with empty boxes that I just might need to send someone something someday.

I only allow myself to keep (er… hoard) boxes that are smaller than a greeting card box.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by boxes. Everything seems to come with a really cool one these days. We even have unboxing ritual videos for the holy god technology. We can watch Him revealing Himself to us over and over.

And shoe boxes! No one will think I’m odd for saving the fancy shoe box after the shoe is gone, will they? Even if I am paying $5 extra for the box those shoes come in, it’s worth it! Now that my kids are in the big growing feet stage, however, I had a tower of boxes that went out to recycling pastures not so long ago. Out they must go!

We don’t send things to people like we used to. Shipping has become so expensive that I am inclined to directly ship a gift purchased at Amazon. No need for a special box. No standing in a USPS queue for ages after Thanksgiving. So that special box sits in my closet waiting for me to send something.

Years pass. Dust collects.

And I wind up with a drawer full of items like Today’s. It is only loosely categorized as a box, even by me. Would you call a SLR lens covers a box? No, I thought not.

That said, I love the deep black of this lens box. How it stands unique from all other boxes, incomplete until filled with the items it is intended for. To me it holds potential -- empty space. (A bit like the sound of one hand clapping.)

My first serious camera was manual SLR. I loved it’s streamlined, modern design. I still love reading the typography of the name, Olympus. And perhaps that’s why I save the box (and the camera) long after I stopped buying film for good.

Why don’t I keep this box with my camera? Because it belongs in my box drawer. Yep, you heard me right. I have a drawer of my desk dedicated just for precious boxes.

Seems these days everyone hoards (er…collects) something.  What’s your fetish?

Today’s #NaBloPoMo entry is the first installment of series, “Common Objects I Found Cleaning out My Desk.”

Friday, November 2, 2012

My mother tells 3 stories of abortion

In these final days of the election season, my mother has been speaking to groups around Michigan,  sharing three stories of women she personally knows who have had an abortion – both in the time when abortion was done in back alleys, and a time when abortion was more legal than it is now.

(Foreshadowing: Yesterday I joked about Dick Tracey with my 86 year-old father when he joined me in a Google hangout for the first time. His first reaction to this modern marvel? Noticing the wrinkles over his upper lip, as if for the first time. I guess he only looks at his upper lip when his is actively shaving it. I bring up my father for context. While my mother was in the hospital recovering from delivering my brother Jim [b. March 1964], my father brought her Betty Friedan’s, The Feminist Mystique [Pub: 1964] Get it? Back to Mother.)

I hold deep gratitude that I was raised in the Mad Men era by a mother and father who were strong feminists. I am fortunate to have been raised by parents who planned their pregnancies and have steadfastly supported Planned Parenthood for more than 60 years. 

Election 2012 Implications

(You didn’t really think a post with that title was going to be free of politics, did you?)

If you are undecided on who to vote for…
If you are just pissed at Obama because he doesn’t have a magic wand. (Well are you? Perhaps he sent you a span dm?)
Or are you just spoiling for a fight, like those thugs who assaulted my son’s friend while they were walking home from Middle School on Halloween afternoon.

Please. Before you cast your vote. Think about abortion as a real event, that happens to real people in many different circumstances. people. Your grandmother. Your sister-in-law. Your partner. Your best friend. You?

Who is going to best represent your opinion regarding the reality of abortion versus the morality of it. It matters. And don’t let the distractions of the day keep your heart from speaking to you.

I’m voting Pro-Choice, and I’m proud of it!

Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission. The original article is found at Granna’s Apartment. Time Suck Disclosure: 2000 words.  Please share this with your friends if it moves you.


Women's Voices Matter!

Since the Supreme Court handed down its 1973 decisions in Roe v Wade and Doe V Bolton, states across the country have constructed a lattice work of abortion law, codifying, regulating, and limiting whether, when and under what circumstances a woman may obtain an abortion. * The New York Times, in an editorial on June 15, 2012, said that “Even at a time when extreme attacks on women’s reproductive rights and freedom are nothing unusual, a sweeping measure on a fast track in Michigan’s Republican-led State Legislature stands out.” The Michigan House not only quickly passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill but also silenced two Democratic female Representatives who spoke against the bill. The action by the majority party in Michigan’s House of Representatives threatens the reproductive health of all the women of the state and has caused a huge backlash.

I feel compelled to tell the following stories because women’s votes will matter especially in the 2012 elections. This is the year that multiple and extreme attacks on women’s reproductive health are being carried out by Republican majorities in states and in the U. S. House of Representatives. This is the year that the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States has declared that if elected, he will close down Planned Parenthood. 

The following are true stories about three women known to me personally and the decisions they made to terminate their pregnancies. These were not easy decisions. Indeed, they were seriously thought through and discussed with their loved ones and their physicians.

So, here are their stories:

It is December of 1932. A young woman has gotten off a train, having traveled overnight with her two children from her home in Connecticut to Ohio to visit her parents. Her husband plans to come later on to spend the holidays with the family. She is carrying her 13 month old daughter and is accompanied by her six year old son. The walk along the tracks to get to the terminal where her parents are waiting is a long one. A porter asks if he can help her by carrying the baby. (The baby weighed 9 pounds 11 ounces at birth and is now a considerable burden for the young mother, he believes.) She refuses his offer of help and arrives at her parents’ home exhausted from the overnight trip with the children.

A few days later, she has an attack of tachycardia when her heart beats excessively rapidly and will not let up. Bed rest is recommended. But the heart rate will not return to normal. The grandmother’s diary describes the situation: Morphine is the only medication that can give her any relief, no visitors are allowed. The grandmother is fully occupied with caring for her ill daughter as well as her year old granddaughter. A friend offers to take the brother to her house for a few days in order to give some relief. A heart specialist from the nearby city is called in to consult, but he is not able to offer any help. Heart medicines such as we have today are a long way off in 1932. The young mother’s father is minister at the local Congregational Church. All the church members and friends are praying for her, that her heart will return to normal function and that she will recover her strength. At the close of the year, the grandmother fears that her daughter will not live into the new year.

After several weeks, the young mother recovers, and is able to return with her husband to their home in Connecticut. Once there, her physician tells her that she should never again become pregnant. The risk of heart failure and death is too great.

At that time, there being no medically reliable method of contraception, she became pregnant for a third time. When she went to her physician, he told her what he would do. He would put her into the hospital, terminate the pregnancy, and tie her fallopian tubes. He told her that when people asked about her hospitalization, she should tell them that she had gone into the hospital to have her appendix removed.
This woman went on to raise her two children and become a grandmother to five. In her late 70s she had a gall bladder attack which required surgery. When she met with the surgeon and shared with him her medical history, she told the story of her abortion in 1934 and the appendix story to both the surgeon and to her daughter who had not previously known of the abortion. Her daughter recalls that when the doctor came out of surgery and into the family waiting room, he told her that her mother had come through the surgery just fine and that she had no appendix.

I think that doctor in Connecticut was not only a caring physician but also a bold one who was willing to risk his career to do what he believed was right for his patient.

Fast forward to 1997. Imagine terminating a wanted pregnancy. A couple has been in a committed relationship for 15 and years and busy with their careers: one is a police officer and the other works for a major bank. Now, late into their 30s, they realize time is running out. They both come from Protestant families, both are college educated: they have much in common. One is Caucasian and the other is African American. They live in a large city where gay couples with children are not uncommon and where gay people in general are openly accepted. Oh, did I forget to mention this couple consists of two women?

They decide that they would like to have a biological child. Wanting a child that reflects their family as well as to be a legacy to her father; the African American partner becomes pregnant using a sperm donor. As with all women who desire children, they are overjoyed. However, as the pregnancy progresses, the normal tests that most women undergo indicate that the fetus is a trisomy 21, or Down’s syndrome child. 

They wrestle with the implications for the future of their child, one raised by an interracial lesbian couple. With great sadness, they decide that this would be a triple burden for the child: African-American, disabled, with lesbian parents. After great prayer, contemplation and discussion with both sets of parents, they decide that the appropriate course of action is to terminate the pregnancy.

They go to the largest hospital in their pro-choice city for the procedure, where the abortion is performed. There, they receive grief counseling and participate in a support group with other parents who had terminated a wanted child.

But their story does not end there. The couple tries again to become pregnant. This time, not wanting to undergo the 1:100 odds of another chromosomal defect, the younger woman tries, but fails to conceive.

The follow up to this story is that the couple has since adopted two bi-racial children. The hospital that served them so well was subsequently acquired by the Sisters of Providence who announced that it would no longer provide abortion services.

The third story concerns a young couple who married in 1992. Their first pregnancy ended early in miscarriage. So, naturally, they are delighted to learn they are pregnant again. She works at a Catholic hospital, has her health insurance coverage there and goes to see her doctor who practices at that hospital. At 17 weeks she has an ultrasound test which shows that there could be some problem with the fetus. There is a possible cerebral defect and cleft palate is clearly identified. The doctor wants her to have a second ultrasound, but he is going on vacation, so the follow up test will not occur until 19 weeks. At the time of the second ultrasound, multiple problems show up: cleft palate, heart chambers malformed and hydro-cephalic syndrome. The doctor at the Catholic hospital knows that he can offer her no further medical advice. He refers her to a specialist, a peri-natologist whose services are not available at the Catholic hospital.

The specialist recommends a further test: amniocentesis, a test which can definitively detect fetal abnormalities. The couple waits 10 days for the test results to come back. Finally, at about 22 weeks into the pregnancy, they learn that the baby has an extra thirteenth chromosome.

Trisomy thirteen syndrome babies rarely survive as long in the pregnancy as theirs has. In fact, the defects are so severe, that nature usually aborts them spontaneously. (Many women prior to the availability of low cost pregnancy tests, did not even know they were pregnant; they just thought they were having a late period, when it was actually a spontaneous abortion of a fetal abnormality.) If the fatally flawed baby does happen to survive to term, it dies soon after birth.

The specialist advises aborting the baby. At 23 weeks into the pregnancy she enters a hospital and undergoes an induced labor procedure.

The couple was grateful to have found a specialist who was able to provide this legal service. He apologized that at that time it had to occur in the labor and delivery section of the hospital, where newborns could be heard crying. Instead, this couple were the ones crying, crying over their lost hope for a child.

(It is interesting to note that had there been any further delay, at 24 weeks, they would have had to go to travel out of Michigan to terminate the pregnancy.)

The Catholic health insurance plan refused to pay for the abortion, calling it an “experimental procedure”. If she had carried this pregnancy to term, the insurance would have paid the childbirth expenses, but at the cost of an additional 16 weeks of emotional pain for the parents, knowing that their child was so severely deformed that it would not survive.

The epilogue to this third story is that the couple now has two healthy children, who give them great joy. 

In all three cases, the individuals involved gave thanks for doctors who were willing to do what was best for the women who were facing difficult decisions. With the pressure that extremely conservative and religiously restrictive legislators are putting on women today, it may not be possible for women in the future to find qualified doctors to advise them and hospitals where the doctors can perform abortions in cases such as these.

Politicians who seek to shut down Planned Parenthood, do so at the risk of causing great harm to the millions of women who go there not only to receive contraception services that will help them prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also receive cancer screening and basic health care, as well as advice on abortion services.

Abortion must remain a legal option, one that a woman can make with the advice of her physician and those closest to her, should she choose to involve them in the decision. Women must not let politicians decide if and how it takes place.

• Guttmacher Institute, “State Policies in Brief” as of June 1, 2012
Posted by Betsy Dole, Granna's Apartment at 6:30 AM 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rabbit Rabbit

When my mother was a girl, on the first day of the month, she would say "rabbit rabbit" as she hopped out of bed to ensure good luck for the month ahead. (The charm only works when you enact the ritual before you say a single word to anyone that morning.)

Rabbit. Rabbit.

Oh to have a simple charm to weave into the lives of my children to keep them safe in the world.

Yesterday at the same time Son and friends were walking home from school, I was mulling over letting my middle-school-aged children go out trick or treating unchaperoned. Meanwhile a group high school boys were approaching Son and friends asking them to buy some weed.

When Son and friends declined (thank you!), and kept on walking, the delinquents followed, snickering.

Rabbit! Rabbit!

A couple blocks later, one of them confronted our boys and assaulted Son's friend. A right cross to the chin, they later described it to the police. Those hooligans were just looking for a fight when our boys happened to cross their path, the cop said.

Ironically, just the day before I was explaining to Son that our safe neighborhood still held danger and that's why I was concerned about him being out alone on Halloween night. I mentioned several instances of young men assaulted by strangers. Little did I know that the next day he'd experience my fear in real life.

Rabbit!! Rabbit!!

No charm, no mother's warning protects our children on the street.

The cellphone they carry for the unimaginable emergency didn't ward off the blow.

The police who took an hour to get there to take their statement weren't able to protect them. In broad daylight. In a safe neighborhood. By the time they got there the perpetrator was long gone.
Did I let my son out that night without an adult? Yes, he and his friends got home safely, candy bags full and trauma left behind.

As I guide my children across the chasm between childhood and independence, I say prayers and hope for a Guardian Angel (or even simple dumb luck) to guide them safely through the journey away from the safety of home and out into the world.

Today as I muse about good luck charms and cell phones, I wait from him to make it safely home, holding him in my thoughts.

Rabbit! Rabbit!