Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Off the bench

It has certainly been a while since I have last find the time to post. What has happened you ask? Maybe I am having post election traumatic stress syndrome, or stock market manic depression, or gas price fall out schizophrenia. Its certainly got to be some sort of psychological disorder to keep Mara from sleeping and writing.

The sleeping thing. Anyone who knows me knows I am a champion sleeper. It is my greatest gift. Now, granted, it must be in a proper bed. I am not the kind of person who can just nodd of on a plane, train or automobile. But, give me a bed and I can show you some sleep. But lately, sleep has been eluding me somewhat. Not in any way comparable to those who actually suffer from insomnia.. but lets just say, it's not as easy as it used to be. Is this a sign that I am getting older? I am thinking particularly about how old men can't sleep past 5am. Am I destined to do the same?

Now, there is quite a bit going on. As referenced above, on the macro level we've got all the headlines of doom and gloom that you can't seem to escape. But, it is the micro level that really matters. This week alone I've heard of 3 people I know of who have lost their jobs. We are in the midst of Erik's interview process for a job that is not located here. As a result, there are all sorts of thoughts of moving, trying to sell our house (do we even have ANY equity?), buying a house (could we get a loan?), the list goes on. And whereas, before January 28, 2008 I was moderately foot loose and fancy free, add a baby in the mix and you've got a whole new level of worries.

Ok, so the sleep thing.

And the writing thing? When I don't write it is usually because there is something going on that I don't want to acknowledge. My recent silence may be on some level my "waiting in the wings" to see how this all shakes out. I am a firm believer that we will end up where we are meant to be. We always do. The worry won't effect the outcome, so why do it? The not writing therefore, is just my way of sitting on the bench. Watching the game. Waiting to be subsituted in.

With visits from Bren, impromptu trips to WI and turkey day looming, it is quite a game. This is me, getting off the bench, and back into the game.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Every day love

Random thought of the day:

At one point in my life, I feared that bringing the everydayness to a relationship would be the death of it. Every day needed to be an experience, a celebration. Every feeling heightened by adventure, newness and surprise. I've learned that the real work happens in the comfort of routine. When the conversations have been had, the touch is the same, the nerves are dull from constant abrasion, that is where true companionship lives. Every day love is loving on days when you can hardly muster the energy to love your coffee. Today might be considered one of those lovely days.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve

Twas the night before voting and all through the house...
Not a brain cell was stiring not even an ounce.
The baby was snug in bed with her spikey hair
In hopes that the results might turn out fair.

When what should my wondering eye should appear?
A political forward with rationale so clear..
That despite my desire to author a serious and original ditty
the fact this is ending helps make me feel giddy.

Taxes, welfare, diversity and gaffes
Even discussion of whose going to be on the staff
Socialism is the definition of radical left wing
and its promise is shining as bright as Beyonce's bling.

McCain was a POW in a prison camp for a time
Longer than Obama was working for the DC dime.
2 years in the Senate and 2 years on the trail
Versus a life long commitment to not letting America fail.

The Dow Jones and NASDAQ plummeted taking our accounts down
the credit markets froze and Barney Frank looked like a clown.
The bailout package was a bomb that hit like 9/11
that kept Americans up at night, nervous 24/7.

Obama happened upon Joe the Plumber one day
And answered a question in an unscripted way
Spreading the wealth is the heart of the matter
And his true nature is clear, he really is a mad hatter.

So, my message is to those mavericks who have yet to decide
Its time to line up, left or right, side by side
Its our civic duty to cast our lot
And make sure our country doesn't go to pot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rut Ro.. what happens when press coverage isn't supportive.

The Sacrifice of Truth to Power by Melanie Phillips

The sacrifice of truth to power
Sunday, 26th October 2008

What’s happening in this terrifying, Orwellian US presidential race is the flip side of the madness that’s been on display since 9/11 itself, when swathes of the UK population decided that ‘America had it coming to it’ because it supported Israel, and that George W Bush was the most dangerous man on the planet. After the Iraq war started this irrationality swelled into pathological proportions on both sides of the Atlantic, when the ‘Bush lied, people died’ narrative fuelled a hatred of Bush and ‘the neocons’ exceeded in its hallucinatory and murderous venom only by the truly deranged way in which the media and intelligentsia systematically either ignored evidence that did not fit this narrative or, even more astoundingly, reported it in such a way that it delivered the opposite of what was actually happening or being said.

In this way not only has history been rewritten, not only have Britain and America been to a greater or lesser extent turned against themselves and demoralised by the propaganda of their mortal enemies recycled as truth by our fifth-column Big Media, but they have been incited to an ugly and dangerous level of irrationality, hatred and hysteria which history tells us presages the twilight of freedom. It is that media class which, in refusing to tell the public what it needs to know about Barack Obama, may now finally install in the White House the man who personifies the repudiation of the American power and western values that the media and left-wing intelligentsia (of which the media is the mouthpiece) have themselves spared no effort to destroy these past seven years

As ABC columnist Michael Malone protests:

What I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side -- or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del. If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography....

Why, for example to quote the lawyer for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., haven't we seen an interview with Sen. Obama's grad school drug dealer -- when we know all about Mrs. McCain's addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden’s endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber. Middle America, even when they didn't agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

So much indeed.

Read the whole blog here:

Monday, October 27, 2008


It is no secret that I've become engrossed by the news coverage of the presidential election. Each day I sit, flaberghasted, by the endless twists and turns that are playing out in the media. Despite taking in all these details, I remain a big picture person. To that end, here are some key definitions that we seem to have lost sight of:

cap⋅i⋅tal⋅ism [kap-i-tl-iz-uhm]

–noun an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

free press  –noun a body of book publishers, news media, etc., not controlled or restricted by government censorship in political or ideological matters.

welfare state  –noun a state in which the welfare of the people in such matters as social security, health and education, housing, and working conditions is the responsibility of the government.

so⋅cial⋅ism [soh-shuh-liz-uhm]

–noun 1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.
3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

Do I think Obama is a socialist? Not in the traditional sense, however, there is no question that he is for the redistribution of wealth. For me, it still comes down to this - why have the government do something for you that you can do for yourself? I don't care if it is a Republican or Democratic government, it is a bureacracy regardless.

The emotion is running high. When you vote - will you vote on emotion or will you vote for the preservation of the American dream?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Finish

There is so much to blog about these days I hardly know where to start. Have you heard? There is a big election coming up. The stock market is down. AIG is spending thousands on shooting parties in England. The US military is catching terrorists in Iraq. Gas is $2.58 a gallon. GM & Chrysler are talking merger. Merril Lynch reports a $5B loss this quarter. Barack Obama is the teflon candidate. John McCain is in love with a plumber. Need I say more?

It all comes down to this. I was truly excited about the Republican ticket with the announcement of Palin as Veep. I went to the rally. I was feeling good. I might actually have a vote for a ticket that is more to me than the lesser of two evils. Then the economy tanked. And McCain tanked. My morale hit a low. Oh, no. Here we go. McCain is going to blow it. And the debates. Lots of good hits, but no knockout. We should be respectful, but wait, Obama "pals around with terrorists". We should fight... but well, not that much.

I was feeling, well, defeated. Then Bill Kristol comes out and says its over. No way McCain can win. He needs to get angry. He needs to talk straight about the economy.

But, I have some hope. There is something holy about the American citizen entering the polling station. Something about checking that box, pulling that lever or hitting that screen... something that no media outlet can predict. Last night as I watched Fox News talk to their focus group about the Debate at Hofstra it was said very clearly. Obama may be eloquent. He may win debate after debate, but that doesn't necessarily equate in winning votes. Obama has just enough time to be over confident and lose this election. There are a lot of us out there that are charmed by his charisma.

When you enter the booth to vote- do you vote for charm or do you vote on trust? The media hasn't quite captured the pervasive wonder in the US - can Obama be trusted? That is the exact reason why Bill Ayers, Rezko, Rev. Wright, and ACORN matter. There are just enough question marks about Obama to sow the seeds of doubt about where he might ultimately take this nation. The fact is that the US is broke. Obama has no solution that doesn't include spending money. Unless the American public is ready to sign on to class warfare and the welfare state (and maybe we are), McCain has a chance still.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Xanthe's Christmas List

I know we are going to get a lot of questions about what Xanthe has, doesn't has, wants, needs and/or what Erik & Mara could live with Xanthe receiving for Christmas. So, I've started a wishlist. If you want to spoil Xanthe, here is a good place to start...

My Wish List

I will be adding to this list. Feel free to check back for changes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Debates

Here she goes again....

McCain v. Obama

Obama is so polished it kills me. He really is impressive. He speaks like a east coast elite and it is like music to my ears. He is learned and polite and then my eyes glaze over........

Mccain isn't going to win any points for grace. He does not have the command of the audience, the stage or the podium like Obama.

But, I still can't get past the fact that Obama has done so little in his political career. McCain has been a civil servant for decades. He has fought for the country both on the battlefield and in the Senate. Despite his inability to adequately address the financial crisis (a big failing by the campaign in my opinion), his is still the agenda to deal with the problems facing the country. Not only will Obama's tax cuts slow the economy further, his entire agenda will have to be tossed out the window because, lets be honest, there is no money. So for all those who are voting for him because of universal healthcare, larger and wealthier social programs, or the $3Billion he promised for the Great Lakes, it aint gonna happen. I don't understand the logic that Obama gains in the polls when the economy tanks. Big government does fix a failing economy. Putting money back in the system does.

And that brings me to the VP debate:

Biden v. Palin

The two points that lead me to believe that Palin won the debate:
1. We need to return to an era of "personal responsibility". Americans are mad as hell at what is going on in the country, Wall Street, Congress... the list goes on. Everyone wants to play the blame game. Who warned it was happening... who tried to do something about it... who cares? Its done now. Lets hold these fat cats responsible and reform DC. I am in.
2. Giving $$$ back. We need to hear more about the windfall tax Palin put on the gas companies in Alaska and how she gave that money back to her constituents. Lets not add to the national debt by passing economic stimulus packages, lets give the money back to the taxpayers by way of windfall profit taxes and tax cuts.

Biden is a statesman but the comparison was clear. An old dude from Congress who has had his chance to change the country and hasn't done it vs. the young gal from Alaska who has the energy and no allegiances to special interests to prevent her from getting something done. I am okay w/ her experience level at the VP level, not at the top of the ticket. And lets face it, she still has more experience than Obama does.

My advice:

The "Straight Talk Express" needs to get out there and talk straight. McCain fumbled in his handling of the bail out plan. Make is straight and simple for the American public - be real - tell us what we can and can't do. We can STILL reform government. It doesn't take money to do that. It take balls. McCain's message got fuzzy the last couple of weeks. Time to get back to basics.

Movin On...

Before Xanthe was born, all the parents I ran into said: "it goes so fast...". When I was in the longest 9 months of my life, with each twitch, tingle or tickle causing happiness, fear or reassurance, that was the last thing I could hear. It goes so fast. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

This past week, Xanthe and I ended our nursing relationship. I am not the crunchy-granola type mom. Breastfeeding for me was a pragmatic solution - it is the best food and it is free! More than the pragmatic considerations, I found that emotionally, nursing allowed me to have an immediate physical bond. When you are pregnant, you imagine that you will feel instant true unconditional love at the sight of your newborn. The fact is, sometimes it takes time. When Xanthe was a newborn there were times when I looked at her in disbelief. Is this little girl really MY daughter? I would count the fingers and the toes... in awe. There was a getting-to-know-you time. And with each phase of Xanthe's development, there is a level of confidence, knowledge and attachment that grows. I loved her instantly but nursing helped me to reinforce what seemed unbelievable, that we did this. My love grows.

As a result, I come to the end of nursing with mixed feelings. There were several changes in our working life that necessitated the change. And frankly, Xanthe has never been a "polite" nurser. She yanks, hits, pulls, bites and lacks attention to the task at hand. Some babies are so peaceful at breast. Babies sleeping in their mothers arms, happy, content. Xanthe isn't this child. She does not need me for comfort.

We know each other well enough now to know that the relationship was changing, and I no longer need to nurse to feel like her mommy. It goes so fast.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Things that baffle me..

Several things that happened today, well, they baffle me....

Why did the UN allow Iranian President Ahmadinejad to address the assembly? Even worse, he is better treated on Larry King Live than our own presidential nominee John McCain is treated while being interviewed by Meredith Veira on The Today Show. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with our country when an actual terrorist is better treated than a man who has fought for and served this country his entire life.

I want someone to write an article that actually describes, in acute plain simple detail, what WILL happen on Monday morning when the stock market opens and the Congress hasn't passed the 700 billion dollar bail out? I want to know, much like I wanted to know exactly what would happen to us when we hit $4 gas (thank you Newsweek for answering my question). Yes, I know the world will end. No credit. No lending. Economy comes to a loud grinding halt. But the sadist in me wants to know what all of that will really feel like to little ole me sitting in Shakopee MN. POSTSCRIPT: Thank you George Bush for answering this question.

The Democrats want to add a bailout to the taxpayers by way of an addition to the 700 billion dollar deal of some larger amount for homeowners who are struggling paying their mortgages. Ok. Lets stop the madness. I am taxpayer, who now is not only bailing out Wall Street, but bailing out myself?! I am not in the business of giving the US government money so that they can repackage it and give it back to me and my neighbors. How about - I will just keep my money?!

Someone needs to tell the lunching ladies at the Minnetonka General Store that the sky is falling. Clearly these ladies have not been watching the news. They were not panicing about the impending end of the financial world and seemed quite happy to digest their popovers and honey butter, chicken salad sandwiches and cheddar beer soup before shopping for non-essential items as Yankee Candles and Vera Bradley purses through the afternoon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A novel

There has been this little idea bopping around in my head. I want to write. It isn't a new feeling for me. I have this itch every now and then. It strikes me like a forgotten item on a "honey do" list... I need to write. Man. When am I going to do that?
Needing to write also causes me heartache. There are ramifications of having "writing" on my to do list. Needing to write necessitates an assessment of my actual job - an assessment that frankly I would often like to avoid. Lets put it this way, I didn't go to school to be a claims adjuster. I don't think anyone ever dreams of being a claims adjuster. Some times my job is surprisingly fulfilling but most of the time, it is just my job. Writing to me is like the vacation I can't afford to take. Its the cabana on the swim up pool at that fabulous Riveria Maya all inclusive that Erik and I haven't made it to yet... I can close my eyes. I can feel it. Oh, man...
Writing also opens a lot of doors, and windows too. What would I write about? If I were really truly going to write, a nooooooooooovel... all of a sudden the words, the thoughts they disappear. A novel is just, well, long. Mara tends to function in short bursts of energy and thought. A big bang, if you will. If I could, I would write about love, about seeing the world with new eyes. About birth, death, life, fear and fruition.

A novel is like a thesis. I wrote a thesis once and not sure I would sign up to do it again. It demands an outline. Character development. Consistency. Thought. Mood. Funtion. Dynamism. Wit and poignancy. It requires editing and more editing. Critique, criticism and re-writing. So much emotional investment. Such a journey.

It is at about this point in my thought process when I start to make excuses. It sounds like an awful amount of work, this writing. Mara is lazy, a lazy pragmatist really. That is my great excuse. The dog didn't eat it. I just didn't get around to doing it.

But more and more, writing speaks to me. It has started here. I am not sure where it will end or who it will end with. Maybe my story will be told. I am coming around to the idea.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Politics - Continued

People want to hear more about what I think about politics. I can hardly contain myself (no sarcasm here).

My reaction to the Palin speech? The next morning, I made an online donation to the McCain/Palin campaign. Needlesstosay, I was impressed by Palin and it is not just because she is a woman. But as to the conclusion of my point by point discussion of the conventions:

The Rest of the RNC
1. Rudy Guiliani - Wow. I knew I liked Rudy. Growing up on Long Island, Rudy's impact on the NYC was very obvious. NYC became clean, safe, and cops on every corner. After 9/11, Rudy became America's mayor and for good reason. He threw a LOT of punches at the Obama camp at the RNC, and it reminded me of the grittiness of a true New Yorker. I think that Rudy's most effective point might have been about Barack Obama's voting "present" in the Illinois legislature. Apparently it is not uncommon to vote "present" in the Ill. legislature, but there is still a question about the bills that Obama found it impossible to take a position on (some were unanimous votes except for Obama's "present" vote). Which begs the question, if you don't agree, why not just say no? Perhaps, then, it was above his pay grade to make decisions as well?
2. Palin - I wish that they could have run Palin's bio video, but alas, all she did was walk on stage and start talking. I loved her style. She is smart, sassy and sophisticated. She is a quick study. Her presentation was easy to listen to, easy to laugh with and easy to relate to. She did a good job building up McCain's record. She told her story with humility and humor (I don't need to quote the hockey mom comment do I? - a total adlib when her teleprompter went off - even MORE impressive). The moment that I knew Sarah was for me was her very serious delivery of lines such as "But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot" (with a sly smile). Loved it. It has been a week since the speech and now as (some of) the dust has settled, I am struck by the pragmatism that Sarah Palin has displayed in her politics and her approach. I consider myself a pragmatist, so, it is no surprise that I like her. I was pumped up last Wednesday night and I am STILL pumped up.
3. Lindsay Graham - WHY do they let this man speak?! Yikes. Snooze. I know he's buddies with McCain and Lieberman, but spare us.
4. Cindy McCain - Two things here. I never knew much about the McCain family and the story of their adopted daughter Briget is a sweet one. The story of Cindy's family and her romance with John was nice to hear. It humanized the long term politician that we know. But, secondly, I felt bad for Cindy. She was obviously nervous, and although sweet and endearing, she is no Laura Bush. She did a good job, but it was hard not to reflect HOW good Sarah Palin was after seeing the pre-McCain speakers on Thursday night.
5. The Main Show - I felt terrible that the first 15 minutes of John McCain's speech was constantly interrupted by protestors. Why can't we just give each side its hour with respect and civility? Each time a protestor stood up, the crowd started chanting 'USA' and poor McCain kept having to stop.... but when the protestors had done their damage, John McCain got his footing and I think, considering he isn't a speech-maker-of-note, he made a good case for his role as reformer, and got the crowd pumped with his rousing call to:
"Fight with me. Fight with me.
Fight for what's right for our country.
Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future.
Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.
Stand up for each other; for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.
Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. Nothing is inevitable here."
Given this isn't McCain's favorite forum, I think he did exactly what he need to. He reframed the argument. He made a case that he is a real agent for change. As evidenced by the week that's followed, the Obama campaign still doesn't seem to know how to respond.

Overall: Despite the challenges of Gustav and having to revamp the schedule, including Bushie time (not a bad development, really), the RNC was a wild success. The theme was (painfully) clear: Country First. The VP pick impressed us - energizing the base and providing some independents and women a reason to give McCain another look. The speeches reminded us what the true differences are between Republicans and Democrats, but provided a necessary departure from the Bush years. It is hard to believe that a year ago it would have been unthinkable for a Republican to have a shot at the White House in 2008, and yet, here we are with a forward thinking reformist ticket! For the future though, I think it would be best if we could keep the dancing at a minimum at the RNC.

Another Follow Up / The Media: Since my post commenting on the utter bias of Olbermann and Matthews, MSNBC has removed the two from their moderation of the campaign debates. They will remain as analysts (where their bias is accepted), but will not be delivering the "news". That job has been given to White House correspondent, David Gregory. Fox News is reporting that the change is due to pressure from Tom Brokow on the NBC big-wigs. If so, good for Brokow. I knew I always liked him.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Xanthe's First Swim Lesson





As most of you know, a large majority of my childhood was spent in a pool. So, taking Xanthe in for her first swim lesson was a full circle moment for me. Erik did the honors of being in the pool with her, so I had the joy of watching her experience the water. On first entry, she splashed and bounced. She showed interest when her classmate arrived and joined her in the pool with his Dad. There was lots of singing and splashing. She was happy until about half way through, when it became apparent that normally, 10:15am is naptime! After her first experience with "humpty dumpty", and being dunked under water, she was surprised. When Erik placed her back on the wall again, her eyes went wide, and she screamed as if to say, "Oh, no! Not again!" I laughed during the rest of the lesson, as they did the Hokey Pokey, every time she went in a circle, she zeroed in on me sitting on deck, and gave me eyes that said, "Mom, help me!"
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On Politics

Politics is a hard topic for anyone to talk about because it opens the door for conflicts that one might rather avoid. Many of my friends don't agree with my politics, and the issues of the day are just issues, they don't make me any different than who I am. I am still Mara, your friend, your colleague, for better or for worse.
I can’t seem to contain my thoughts on the Presidential Election and the conventions. I watch both parties. I watch, trying to critique the speeches, like a college student would - for content, for style, for delivery, etc. I come to the table as what the pundits would call a "suburban Republican". I generally vote for the conservative ticket, but I am a social moderate, and my support for President Bush has certainly waivered during his second term.
Why do I vote Republican? For the philosophy. I would rather handle my own money than give it to the federal government to spend. I believe that if you truly believe in the principles the country was founded upon, that you have to embrace capitalism, and that means less regulation. I believe that the country was founded on the principle of freedom and opportunity, not the equality of result. I believe that in order to have clout in the world, we have to have the strongest, most well funded, most respectful military in the world and still fear the need to use it.
I come to the broadcasts of the convention with the above biases. Here are my thoughts:
1. The Hillary Issue: By the end of her speech, I almost liked Hillary. The whole thing was very Clintonian – let-me-tell-you-how-amazing-I-am. Putting herself in the line of the suffrage movement may have been a bit over the top. Do I think that the Obama campaign did itself a disservice by discounting the Clintons? Absolutely. Do I think they solved the problem at the DNC? No. Don’t be fooled, Hillary will be back and the Dems will be praising her again in a couple of years...
2. Joe Biden; For as exciting as Sarah Palin is, Joe Biden is dull. Am I moved about his commitment to his sons in the face of their mother's tragic death? You betcha. But, if he is the experience on the ticket (and he is) - let's talk about THAT. I listen to the news, and other than knowing he is on (the head?) the foreign relations committee, I don't know what he has done in all of his decades in the Senate. When did he reach across the aisle? What did he reform? Tell me, I want to listen, I want to hear it. I am begging for a good reason to be a swing voter. The result: Biden night didn't do it for me. Where's the beef? (And a question to the media: if we are going to talk about family pregnancies and DUI tickets in high school, why aren't we talking about Biden's plagiarism?)
3. The Spectacle at INVESCO Field - I watched Barack deliver his keynote speech at the DNC in 2004 that launched him to superstar status. I was impressed by him. His poise, his promise. I believed him to be THE rising star of the Democratic party. I really wanted to like him. But, his speech at INVESCO Field struck me as lacking on several points:
1. The inherent paradox: His story is the American dream. He is the son of a single mother, born to a Kenyan father (an interracial relationship in that age must have created a stir). He grew up in small town America, gaining respect and experience through the pursuit of higher education. It says so much about our country that someone like Barack can go from humble beginning to Harvard to the state legislature to the Senate. And Barack told his story well. But within paragraphs of concluding his American dream story, he went on to say, that these days, the American dream is in jeopardy. That Americans are no longer able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and that when he is President, there will be programs in place to help. Does that make sense? If Barack was able to do it in the 1960's, what has changed to make it impossible now? Maybe this is the fundamental reason I have voted Republican. I still think that in America, if you work hard, you can live the American dream. Maybe it is just that we don't want to work for it anymore?
2. Barack didn't give us a memorable theme or line or something from his speech. The fireworks were impressive, but I didn't leave stirred with a chant in my head. Was it "yes we can" or "say no to four more years" or “change” or what?
3. Why didn't he go with what he is good at? I think he should have gone with the big rhetorical speech. He should have pulled on the heartstrings and gotten us emotional. He had the stage set up for theatrics and we got a vanilla speech. It was a laundry list of the ills of America and "working class" this and that, with no real concrete reason as to why he is the "change" candidate other than he is a democrat. Unlike Oprah Winfrey, I am sad to say, it didn’t change my life.
4. Overall Impression: Notably, the DNC rarely mentioned 9/11/01. It was lacking in the Bill Clinton speech (not surprising), it was never discussed as a reason WHY the country is facing challenges abroad, with our military, etc. The DNC created a revisionist history that glossed over the minor detail of the largest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. I do think that the democrats were successful in unifying their party with the Clinton spotlight. Hillary conducted herself with grace. The DNC failed to convince me that Democratic party is going to offer any 'change' other than the same old democratic platform.
1. Gustav - I think that the Republicans handled the Gustav threat very well. The timing was unfortunate. One hopes that each party will get its full time to explain its message, but so be it. Did it remind us what a failure the government, local, state and federal, was during Katrina? Yes. Do I think it has been proven that the lesson was learned? Yes.
2. Fred Thompson - Delivery was excellent. Even as a regular news watcher, I did not know the details of McCain's military experience and I was moved by the story. McCain is a brave man. His military experience doesn't qualify him to be President, but it sure does speak to the man's character. I don’t think his courage is in dispute.
3. Joe Lieberman - Clearly, this man has a lot of respect for McCain. He is difficult to listen to, his voice, his presentation is lack luster. He is putting his neck out there by supporting McCain and it speaks volumes given the wrath that he will face from his former Dem friends (as evidenced by Bill Richardson on the news circuit this morning). If you are independently minded, I don't know if Lieberman's endorsement really means anything. The independents that are up for grabs are probably the ones that left the Gore/Lieberman ticket in 2004 and voted for Bush. I originally thought it would be dramatic if McCain would choose Lieberman as his running mate. After his speech, I am relieved that he didn't.
4. Sarah Palin - On Friday morning, when the news channels were reporting that Sarah Palin was the anticipated pick - "mmm... who?" was my reaction. But, the more I hear the more I like. Do I agree with her on all issues? No. I am not ready to reverse Roe V. Wade for one. But, her record (and yes, if the press would focus on REAL news, she has one worth talking about) on taking on the old boys in Alaska, taxing Big Oil and rebating Alaskan citizens is good. She is an exciting out-of-the-box VP pick. Unlike the Biden pick, she has the potential to bring real change to Washington. I can't wait for her speech tonight.

1. Bristol's pregnancy - If this candidate was a man, and it was HIS 17 year old daughter who was pregnant, would we still be talking about this? Bristol's pregnancy doesn't reflect on how successful Sarah Palin is as a mother and even less related is the reflection it has on her ability to be the Vice President of this country. Even more ironic, is that our other historic candidate is the child of a single mother. Does that reflect on him? on his mother? Bristol's pregnancy is not incongruous with Palin's abstinence position. Palin is promoting a form of birth control, and like all birth control, sometimes abstinence doesn't work. Bristol Palin isn’t the first teenager to get pregnant and she won’t be the last.

I saved the best for last. It has never been more apparent to me than in the last 2 weeks how absolutely bias the media in this country are. I have watched MSNBC for years and was moved to tears when I heard of Tim Russert’s death. I always considered the network fairly moderate, if not, liberal leaning. But I would swallow the liberal leaning for the cool tones of Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw.

Not anymore. How the media has jumped like rabid dogs on Sarah Palin and her less than newsworthy family news, her “experience” issue, and the digging of dirt on her alleged ethics issues is appalling. This morning I watched Meredith Veira lay into Rudy Giuliani about whether Palin was experienced enough to be Vice President.

Here is a little refresher. She is going to be VICE President. McCain is still fully functional as far as I can tell. And if, God forbid, something would happen, Palin would have A. the experience of having been VP for some amount of time and B. the ability to choose a running mate to compliment her relative lack of inexperience on foreign relations issues, someone, hmmmm… like Joe Biden? Sounds like exactly what the Obama campaign had to do because their Presidential candidate has no foreign relations experience, no military experience and no executive experience at all.

So, lets all watch tonight as the much maligned Sarah Palin takes the stage. She has already put fear into the hearts of the Democratic faithful and the media, my prediction is that their attacks will become even more desperate by the morning. I can’t wait to hear what Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews will have to say about it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Naked Time!


I couldn't help myself.... now, I have ammunition for when she is a teenager!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mama loves her football on-a-stick

Just a quick post to share with the world the joy I find in two activities I intend to engage in this week, namely, NFL football (yes, its true) and the MN state fair, otherwise known as "the great minnesota get together."

A few comments on my love of football. There is something about the heralding of autumn with a large offensive line securing the pocket for a strong armed quarterback that just sits well with the soul. I remember fondly the days watching high school football, when it was sunny enough to sport my sunglasses but cool enough to be out in a newly purchased J.Crew sweater. (how much does that date my high school experience? - mid 90's much?) Now, years later, with a far better understanding of the game, I love sunday afternoons (usually folding laundry) in front of the big screen listening to the low tone commentary of John Madden or one of his lesser peers. So, this week, I am stoked to attend my first ever NFL game. So what if its only pre-season?! Its the Steelers v. Vikings, and I am 25 rows back from the 50 yard line. In the words of the wise Emily Raynor, thats 'damn good'.

The "great minnesota get together" or, the land of food on-a-stick, is my other guilty indulgence in late August. The kitsch filled fun starts today and runs through Labor Day. Last night I perused the menu of items up for grabs, on-a-stick. Some interesting stand outs include: butterscotch cake on-a-stick, tater tots deep fried on-a-stick, alligator sausage on-a-stick, 1/3 lb. fried bacon with maple sauce on-a-stick, scones on-a-stick, cheese on-a-stick, pork chops on-a-stick, salmon on-a-stick, reuben on-a-stick, Minnesota hot dish on-a-stick, spaghetti and meatballs on-a-stick, whole dill pickle on-a-stick, blackened cajun steak on-a-stick, caramel apples on-a-stick, Puff Daddy on-a-stick (not sure what that is, but apparently its edible), scotch eggs on-a-stick, ice cream on-a-stick (isn't that a popsicle?), and frozen grapes on-a-stick (for the small minority of fair goers who want lite fare). Really, how could anything on-a-stick be bad?

We love to people watch at the fair. We love to animal watch at the fair. Erik & I usually take in the "English" horse show (honey, we ain't at the Hampton Classic anymore), trying to catch some classes over fences, and then move on to the stables, the cow barn, the pig barn. Then we make our way through the crowds of families, teenagers and twenty-somethings past the amusement rides and food courts to the slower paced attractions... the lumberjack demonstrations, the John Deere and Harley Davidson displays. My Erik gets to be a little boy again and I have the joy of watching him. The fair always brings out something of our childhood, mine in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, his in Maryland and West Virginia. Yes... its likely we are related. If that doesn't do us in, it's our indulgences on-a-stick that will!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Proceed with caution - The Birth Story

They say there is some sort of hormonal response in a new mom that helps her forget the pain of her childbirth. In Erik's "New Father" book, it even says that for new Dads it can take up to a year to recover from seeing your wife in the throws of labor....

With that on my mind, I was trying to remember what it was like the Monday that I gave birth, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in frigid January.

It was 4:43am when my water broke. My punctual body got things groovin' on its own accord 2 minutes before the alarm would sound, waking us, to call the labor ward for my scheduled induction that day. In retrospect, I can say that early labor had started about 12 hours earlier, but what did I know?

I remember eating cereal that morning, and checking my email. Erik walked into the living room ready, I think, to hightail it to the hospital. "I am eating breakfast. I may not get to eat for a while. Oh, and I am having contractions now."

Poor guy. He wanted coffee. So, we stopped at Caribou. I am not sure why we thought it would be open at 5am - it wasn't - but sitting there looking at the hours, I had my first real, honest-to-God-it-hurts, contraction.

"Lets just go to the hospital."

We were so relaxed. I loved this about my pregnancy. It was like the biggest dose of chill for me. Whatever hormones I had going on were GREAT for me and my marriage!

The day went by in a series of bad news. First, my fluids weren't clear. Then my blood pressure was borderline. Third, my OB didn't like my "egg" (supposed to be round) shape. Go figure. I was round everywhere else.

After 10:30am, I had an epidural on board. I had been looking forward to it. But in classic Mara style, the drugs didn't do anything but make me feel helpless and out of control and I didn't like it. (As is usually the case with me and drugs). My legs felt like they were in an ice box, and I was complaining about them and the blood pressure cuff that I felt was trying to strangle me with its attack on my arm.

Then the fever started. Xanthe's heartbeat was erratic, going up and down with the contractions. She wasn't coming down into my pelvis. The pitocin and my natural contractions didn't sync up, and my nurse seems baffled and frustrated at the strength of my own body rhythm. Which begs the question - why mess with a good thing?

By 2pm, I had started to run a fever. This was a development that I hadn't read about. I had read about all the other minor but normal complications, and I was well versed in what pre-eclampsia might do to me and the baby. But a fever? I don't think I have had a actual fever for years. I hardly ever get sick.

And the fever started to climb. At 4PM, I hit the line-in-the-sand number, 100.4 degrees. I was 7cm dialated but Xanthe wasn't staying down. Her heart rate was erratic and something appeared to be wrong. Too add insult to injury, it also appeared that Xanthe had flipped over and was now face up, not ideal. But, really, that was the least of our worries.

Oh, and I did I mention I have a heart condition? It was enough to send my OB over the edge.

My OB called it. Time to prep for surgery. It was time to deliver Xanthe. It was time to say that my body had done all that it could, that the drugs couldn't help, that something was keeping us from doing what women had done naturally for centuries. I needed help. I was ready. I was tired, I was uncomfortable. And with the declaration of a c-section my blood pressure went through the roof. Not surprisingly, I immediately felt as if my epidural was wearing off. I was tired, I was thirsty, I was ready to meet my baby. I had tried to keep my cool the whole day, but there in that moment, I was scared. I didn't understand why my body, which I had failed to give any credit to during my pregnancy (and yet was repeatedly told everything was fine) would fail me now.

Erik got into scrubs and I got wheeled into surgery. They gave me dose after dose of bone chilling anesthesia until finally, I admitted that I couldn't feel a thing. At the instruction of the nurse by my head, I repeatedly took deep breaths and listened to the surgeons discuss their weekly schedules over the curtain across my stomach.

The NICU staff, the nurses, the anesthesiologists, the surgeons, everyone was in and out and there I was, arms stretched into a T on a table 10 inches wide, trying to think of my happy place, the hammock swinging between two palm trees.

Erik came in the room and rubbed my forehead. He looked totally freaked out. Who could blame him? Within 15 minutes, our lives changed forever. Xanthe came out, reluctantly given the cord around her neck, with a ferocious cry. I had been told that she might not cry... so when I heard this noise my daughter made, it was the sweetest feeling in the world. She could have sounded like a frog and it would have been a concerto to me.

Erik went to her. She scored in the 8-9 on her Agpars. Too bad for her, my expectations will now always be that high.

Its funny the things you remember. After Xanthe was delivered and I got to see (I use the world lightly given my altered and weeping state) her for the first time, they lowered my head and keep my legs high to put me back together. I couldn't breathe at all, my mucus membranes in my nose were going bananas and I just remember how stuffed up I was....

My next happy memory was receiving ice chips in the recovery room. I hadn't had anything to drink all day, and they tasted better to me than anything I had ever had in my life. I ate cup after cup of ice chips.

Then Erik came in, and he brought Xanthe. We laid her on my chest. Erik helped move the wires from me, and her IV, and lo and behold.... my little girl suckled. She knew me and I was meeting her. All of a sudden, I forgot all of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Phelps schmelps...

I am having a moment. We just enrolled Xanthe in her first swim class, "TOTS I" at Foss Swim School. Anyone who knows me knows that I spent a large majority of my childhood in a pool.

Just walking into the lobby, the smell of chlorine took me back. Years of speedos, caps, goggles, sweats, flippers, pull boys, kick boards... sets of 50s, 100s, wall work, flip turn clinics, 500 warm downs. And in my specific case, numerous coaches all running along side of me yelling, "KICK!"

I hated kicking. That took energy.

Maybe its the Olympics. Maybe its my natural Mom instinct of wanting Xanthe to do better than I did. I couldn't help myself... I had to ask the nice lady who enrolled at us at the desk. "So do you have a US Swimming team here?"

The moment the question formed in my brain, and then slipped out of my lips, I shocked myself. Am I going to be THAT mom?

Ok, so, I took a deep breath. Its only TOT I. There are at least 4 more "TOT" classes and then things get serious with the "LITTLES". I have plenty of time to chill out between then and now. Phew.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Real Simple

"So, when are you going to put pen to paper and write that essay for the Real Simple contest?" Erik asks me last night.
"Ummmm... I wasn't."
"You should, you really should. You write well and people like to read what you write."
"But I have no idea what I would say. There is no one day that I can say was the best in my life."

And I started thinking. What was the most important day of my life? The obvious answers are, the day I got married, the day I gave birth. I can imagine Real Simple magazine is going to receive thousands of 1,500 word essays about those days. So, I started considering less obvious topics - our first date in Annapolis, the day we were practically kicked out of New Hampshire, my guardian angel ride to Benenden School when I was 18, quitting law school (that was a liberating moment).. the list goes on.

The contest assignment says the day could be "poignant or hilarious". The rolodex of memories starts flipping... ok... some mediocre entries there. What about hilarious? Oh sure, there are the embarassing moments that will remain nameless here.. but again, nothing makes me want to devote 1,500 words to its memory.

All these moments combine to make my life pretty darn good. I've had a LOT of days that were poignant and hilarious, its simply not possible to isolate just one. Perhaps it is not the memory of the day that has already happened, but the day in the future that will be the most important...

It is a sunny day. I am sitting on a bench. I have my legs tucked up underneath me like I belong to this bench. I am a fixture here. I can hear the church bells ring. I can hear the water running over the rocks in the river below. The hand in mine has been a fixture for many many years.

I am old and loved. In my eyes you can see a life well lived. I can think back through many decades of challenges, excitements, adventures, explorations. I can say that I've had true love, true companionship. That I've grown as a person and grown in charity. I can remember first setting my eyes on my future husband walking towards me at City Dock in Annapolis, the fireworks of my wedding in a small community church in New Hampshire, the breathlessness I felt when I first saw my daughter's face, and that is just the beginning of our journey.

Maybe its not so difficult to write the essay afterall. It is actually real simple.

Friday, August 1, 2008

My little peanut!

Its hard to believe but we just returned from Xanthe's 6 month "well baby" visit to the pediatrician. We see a Nurse Practitioner/Lactation Consultant instead of the doctor, but really, in our practice, its the nurses who make the day! We have a nurse who has seen Xanthe at every visit since birth and she's like an old friend when you see her. Her smile is all gums and she says all the right things, "Xanthe is getting so big! What a great way to start my day seeing your beautiful baby girl!" For some reason, affirmation likes this means more when it comes from a medical professional. I know she says it to every child, but it feels good all the same.

Xanthe is growing, but well... maybe not as much as she should. She is such a peanut! She has gained exactly 1 lb in two months, from 13lbs 1 oz to 14lbs 1oz. She has not officially doubled her bith weight, but given how many fluids I had in my system, she really has... her birth weight was more like what she left the hospital at - 6lbs 10oz. Her weight is 25th percentile for her age.

She has grown an inch, from 24 to 25. Also in the 25 percentile.

AND.... she continues to have a small noggin. 15 1/2 inches in circumference - that is the 10th percentile. At least she is consistent in her growth! She has been in the 10th percentile for head size since birth.

We talked to the doctor about her development, her feeding and sleeping. She is doing just fine. I am going to make an effort to try to nurse her in quiet dark places. She is so distracted the LC thinks that it is effecting Xanthe's intake. So more down time for both of us. That can't be a bad thing.

On the way out of the office we saw a new mom with her 11 day old baby. I remember when that was us. It was a half a year ago. The newborn was so tiny, wrinkles and fragile. And I looked at Xanthe.. all smiles, sticky-up hair, and razzzzz berries... and I know she is on track to be one heck of a kid.

I got a bit emotional on the way home. I wish I could bottle up this time and put it on the shelf for a later date. I am so afraid that somehow I will forget these days. I keep telling Erik how much I love 5 months... its the best age... well, until 6 months... now 6 months is looking pretty good.

For those of you that have been asking for pictures... of course, this is from 5 months... we are getting up to speed.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Just call me plebeian.

This blog is the grown up sister of a series of journals that I kept in my teens and twenty-something years. The most formative of those years were during my sojourns to England, where I hobnobbed with the social stratosphere of "public" (british for private) school attendees and sipped sherry at functions in World Heritage sites. In those years, my journal was my constant companion.. that, a cup of coffee and I am embarassed to admitt, a pack of "fags". I wanted so badly to be a modern day beatnik or something of that sort.

Flash forward to my thirty-somethings and I am trying to maintain some semblance of cool that I once embodied. I don't smoke anymore. I don't sip sherry and hardly drink wine. My coffee these days has a whole different purpose. I actually need it to get awake, not just STAY awake. I see 4am about as frequently now as I did 10 years ago, but for a wholly different reason, and for necessity, not choice.

In my junior year at Bucknell, I left the states, to enroll in the University College of the University of Durham, which happens to be housed in Durham Castle (links to left). I lived in the Castle Keep, room 44. My roommate was a very accommodating Swedish girl named Louise, who I think I thoroughly abused and wish I could apologize to. In that room, I lived in a ephemeral and intense emotional state. I learned that how you perceive things isn't necessarily how someone else does. I learned that communication is more than words. I learned what it was like to fall in love with ones self, to fall in love with a place. I am still learning how, with time, some memories become clear like crystal and others fade into shadow.

There are moments in life that are foundational. Moments and impressions that change a person and how they think. Part of growing is allowing those moments to define you without imprisoning you. To truly live, you have to grow and allow for those memories to change in meaning in relation to the rest of your life.

When I started writing this blog, I was dying to title a post, "I used to live in a castle". I mean, honestly, WHO gets to say that? But on second thought, I am more happy to say, I don't live in a castle anymore.

Friday, July 18, 2008


On June 28, 2008 we hosted our first annual Pink Ribbon Tea Party in memory of Teresa June Lewis. We raised funds for The Susan G. Komen Foundation and St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Thank you to those that joined us!

Keep flipping through the pages to see what else we've been up to!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Racial Divide

Some random thoughts on a black and white topic...

In 2007, Don Imus referred to members of the the Rutger womens basketball team as "nappy-headed hos." He said it with the cameras rolling and the microphones on. The following days we saw Reverend Jesse Jackson protested in front of NBC, was interviewed on The Today show, and would talk to any camera he could get in front of, in order to chastize Don Imus.

Flash foward to 2008. Reverend Jesse Jackson is caught, microphone on, using far more explosive language that Don Imus ever muttered...

"Barack...he's talking down to black people...telling n—s how to behave."

Why is it okay for a black man, a Reverend, a man who has had aspirations to run this country, to EVER use the n-word? Why aren't we protesting him now? Why is okay for a black man to call a black man a n---?

I am a white woman, so I am sure I just don't get it. I watched the video of Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View. She was in tears asking Whoopi...'we do live in the same world?' Whoopi insisted no, we don't. Well, if it is okay for a black man to refer to his own black community in such derogatory language perhaps the black community is perpetuating the two world that Whoopi says exist? I don't think you can have such a double standard that Don Imus gets protested and loses his job and Reverend Jesse Jackson can say the n-word and it is okay. Something has got to give.

For me... people are people. Some people are stupid. Some people are smart. Some people are gorgeous. Some people aren't. Others are tall. Some short. I do think we are drawn to people like ourselves. Its natural, its comfortable. Some people thrive on diversity. Before I married a man not unlike myself, I dated many a man from other cultures including two black men. People are people. Some are worthy to be loved. Some aren't.

In my book, its not easy to preach racially equality when you don't treat the race you advocate with respect. Reverend Jesse Jackson should receive no more air time as a representative of the black community.... his language does not a community build.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dallas Watch continues...

So, despite the never ending delay, Erik's Dallas watch continues.... word on Friday is that he is still in the running for the job of all jobs. It is the perfect fit for his education, would be sufficiently challenging without being beyond his ability. It would be more than job, it would be a career with a seemingly resourceful corporate citizen.

We are the masters of the dream though... and despite now having a familiarity with all current listings on the northwest coridors MLS, we must remain grounded. We must. We must! I have gone from one extreme to the other, giddy to remorse. I have just spent an hour making a Happy Go Lucky playlist for my IPOD. Need immediate intervention.... anyone? anyone? If I see one more house with 4bed/3bath for less than $200,000, I am going to combust!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

We tried to wait...

But Xanthe made up her mind. She is ready for food! She even wanted to do the spoon herself first time around. Little miss independent! We still intend to do baby led weaning with real "foods" starting in 2 weeks!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sex, forgiveness and things that make you go hmmmmmmmm....

During the sermon this morning, Pastor Robb talked about having gone to see Kitt Kitteredge in the theater on Saturday. She said that she was sad that the movie would be labeled a children's movie because then the themes of the film would be undermined... that it really is a movie about being a good neighbor and loving them as you love yourself...

And I sat in the pew and the guilt started to ice me... like God was taking a Redi Whip can to my head. What movie did I see this weekend? The first movie I've seen since... I-can't-remember and the last I will see until kingdom-comes... Sex and the City. And it was for our anniversary. Erik is a good man.

But, then I started to realize that the themes of Sex and the City weren't all that far off from what is usually served up from the pulpit. The plights of Carrie, Big, Miranda and Steve, its all about forgiveness. If you've seen the movie, you know that they carry this theme without much subtlty... but still, how many men in America have refused to see this film because it is a chick flick? How many people have scoffed at the film due to its title? Its out-there-in-your-face-unabashedly-unapologetic-sexiness?

Forgiveness. I catalog the relationships in my life. They seem to fall into one folder or another.

Folder 1 is titled "Mara is whole".

Folder 2 is titled "Mara is not whole".

Whole is when I loved myself, I forgave myself, I forgave others, and was therefore capable of loving someone else without losing myself.

Not whole is when I was seeking relationships to affirm myself, affirm my self worth, and/or worse, I was using the relationship as a definition, as a crutch, as a weapon or as a filler (not unlike Redi Whip). In the end, I rightfully ended up alone again.

The women of Sex and the City learn that you cannot forgive, you cannot love, until you are whole. And I think that wholeness is when you are unabashedly sexy... unapologetically full of self love... willing to step back and say, I need me.... or, I need me back.

Like a Shakespearean comedy, Sex and the City left Erik & I with a sense that we are right with the world. I am whole. He is whole. Together we are better than the sum of our two parts. Like Carrie, I've been in a lot of relationships... I've had my "Aidens" and my "Alekzandr" and my "Mr. Big".... and in the end, I am wholly in love with my Erik.

I am not sure how Pastor Robb finished her sermon this morning. But at the end I said AMEN and I meant it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

To feed or not to feed.. that is the question.

So, we've arrived at 5 months 1 week and the itch has started. Can we start Xanthe on "solids" now? I love how "solids" in the baby food world really means thinned rice cereal (yummmmm) or pureed vegetables that appetize like cardboard. After giving in and offering a spoon of organic brown rice cereal yesterday, Erik & I have made an about face. I've discovered something called 'Baby Led Wearning'... interesting.... could work?

So, I find the following article about Gill Rapley, Baby Led Wearning researcher persuasive... how I wish her book was out now! Its supposedly coming in Nov. 2008 according to Amazon.

Pureed food 'isn't natural for babies'
Unicef nutrition expert sparks controversy with attack on spoon-feeding from tins and jars

Amelia Hill, social affairs correspondent The Observer, Sunday June 17, 2007 Article historyFeeding babies on pureed food is unnatural and unnecessary, according to one of Unicef's leading child care experts, who says they should be fed exclusively with breast milk and formula milk for the first six months, then weaned immediately on to solids.

Gill Rapley, deputy director of Unicef's Baby Friendly Initiative and a health visitor for 25 years, said spoon-feeding pureed food to children can cause health problems later in life

She blames the multimillion-pound baby food industry for persuading parents that they need to give their babies pureed food. 'Sound scientific research and government advice now agree there is no longer any window of a baby's development in which they need something more than milk and less than solids,' Rapley said.

The industry in Britain is worth more than £450m, compared with £191m in 1989. More than four out of five of Britain's one million babies aged between four and 20 months eat and drink baby food worth more than £120m a year.

Until recently, the words 'baby food' conjured up nothing more exciting than a bit of stewed apple and a rusk. Now, supermarket shelves groan with jars of organic, fresh ingredients, with some ranges even seeking to tempt the discerning baby with 'superfood' options and local ingredients.

Makers of baby food say they are taking Rapley's study seriously. 'This is very new research and we need to look at it very carefully,' said Roger Clarke, director-general of the Infant and Dietetic Foods Associations, a group representing such manufacturers as Heinz, Nestle, Boots and Nutricia.

'UK infant food companies support a flexible approach to feeding infants, but the age at which solids are introduced depends on the nutritional and developmental needs of individual infants and a "one size fits all" policy is not appropriate,' he added. 'Generations of mums and dads have relied on the simple convenience of these special recipes as part of their baby's diet to provide safe, sound nutrition with a wide variety of tastes and textures - from purees that are easy to suck straight from a spoon to soft lumps that encourage chewing.'

But Rapley, who has produced a DVD explaining how to follow a new feeding programme called Baby-Led Weaning, points to an increasing number of scientific projects and government guidance that she says support her programme. 'In 2002, the World Health Organisation backed research that found breast or formula milk provided all the nutrition a baby needs up to the age of six months,' she said. 'That research said feeding a baby any other food during their first six months would dilute the nutritional value of the milk and might even be harmful to the baby's health.'

After six months, Rapley says, babies are capable of taking food to their mouths and chewing, making purees and spoon feeding unnecessary. 'The World Health Organisation was so impressed by the research that it rewrote its recommendations on baby feeding,' she said. 'A year later, the Department of Health for England and Wales followed suit.'

Offering babies pureed foods once they can chew is not only unnecessary, it could delay the development of chewing skills, Rapley believes. In addition, allowing a baby to take as much or as little food as it needs stops it becoming constipated.

Rapley believes that babies allowed to feed themselves tend to become less picky, develop better hand control more quickly and to avoid foods to which they are later found to be intolerant. Rapley was inspired to investigate the widely accepted use of pureed foods during her quarter-century as a health visitor. 'I found so many parents were coming to me with the same problems - "my child is constipated, my child is really picky" - and they couldn't get them on to second-stage baby food. So I started to wonder what would happen if we never took the control away from them in the first place,' she said.

After years spent observing babies and conducting her own studies, Rapley developed her feeding programme, which teaches that babies over six months should be in charge of what goes into their mouths and when. 'Provided a child is sitting up straight and is supervised by an adult, he or she can feed themselves a variety of healthy finger foods with their hands,' she said.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The way things happen

When life is stressful and decision are looming, you often hear, "things happen for a reason." Its such a cliche, of course things happen for a reason. It's called cause and effect. Its seems simple. As I contemplate another major move in my life... I have to wonder, does the cosmos really shift the gravity of causes in order to effect the decision?

In January 2006, I was disgruntled with my job. Erik & I loved our little house on the lake in Canterbury New Hampshire. I mean, could you really have a cuter address than 59 Canterbury Shore Dr., Canterbury NH?! Life was picturesque, idyllic, and beyond stressful. My job was very intense. My commute was long, and money was tight. Having fulfilled my two year contract (due to relocation), I was free to start looking. I spent my evenings dreaming of greener career-pastures on the likes of Monster and Careebuilder. I started putting my resume out there.

Problem was - we would almost definately have to move. There were very few jobs in central NH that were a good fit for me. I landed an interview in Cincinnati and flew out for an interview. When I returned, I got a call from my former boss in California. The conversation went something like this:
"How'd the interview go?"
"I think it went well. I suspect I will get an offer."
"Do you really want to move to Cincinnati?"
"Well, no.. but it is an option."
"I want you to work for me. From home. Live anywhere you want."
"Yes. Think about it, call me back in an hour."

And so it went. I called her back and accepted the position. Cool. Now, we could stay in our house.

Wrong. Turns out, when you work from home, you need to have high speed internet. We lived SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO out there that we didn't even have cable yet! I looked into satelite and other options, but nothing would work. Here I had given notice at my old job, and accepted a job that I couldn't do! Erik & I immediately went into survival mode. Where could I go that I could work?

Around the same time, my brother, living in Minneapolis, was offered a 2 year stint at his company manufacturing facility in Singapore. Talking on the phone, I told him my predicament. "Why don't you come out to Minneapolis? You can live in our place until when we leave Singapore and you sell your NH place." Perfect.

I left for a week long training trip to CA. When I left, we placed the house on the market. We were hopeful, but the market where we lived wasn't like Boston. It was a slow market and houses tended to languish for months without interest. Erik & I started to realize that he would have to stay in NH until the house was sold, and I would be half a country away in MN living with my brother.

In Chicago O'Hare during a layover, Erik got me on my mobile.
"We showed the house today."
"Wow - really?! Its only been on the market a day!"
"We got an offer AND they are interested in buying all our furniture too!"

I got home to NH and thats exactly what happened. They bought our whole lifestyle, house, furniture and all. And they wanted to close in 30 days. The day after we had a contract, our realtor called us.
"You have cable right? The buyer is a day trader and needs high speed internet."
Erik... "Ummm.. can you hold on a second, there is someone in the driveway."
The man at the door: "Looks like you are moving, so you probably don't care, but I am from Comcast cable, and wanted to let you know that we are wiring this neighborhood."
Erik to realtor: "Comcast guy is here, says cable will be in soon."

I spent the weekend packing up my VW Beetle and on Monday morning, I pulled out of the driveway heading on the 24 hour drive to Savage MN. Moving here, sight unseen. I returned 30 days later to help Erik with the rest of our belongings sans major furniture items. We packed up the UHaul and after the closing I remember sitting in the truck and reliving the story...... "its like we HAD to leave NH."

Things happen for a reason.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

So proud of my grads!

Just a quick post to share how proud I am of Erik at finishing up at Dunwoody and wishing him LOTS of luck at super cool job possibility interview on Monday! Fingers crossed....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do your boobs hang low?

Do they wooble too and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?.... you know the jingle. I contemplated naming this post, "weighty issues", but that sounds soooooo, well, heavy.

Have you ever just been awesomely impressed with your body? Maybe thats an easy feeling for some people, it isn't for me. I have had body issues for most of my adult life and despite what appears to be an outward self confidence about all (or most) things, I hate my weight. Or rather, my abundance of it. I am not a freak about it. I don't dwell on it. I try to lose it, ocassionally. For the most part, I just live with it and don't give my body much credit for anything. Its my personality, my face, my eyes, my laughter that matters.... right?

Then WOW. I got pregnant. It wasn't easy. It took us two years of trying. Erik likes to contest this point, that we weren't REALLY trying. But for me it was two long years wondering whether my weight was the reason why it wasn't happening. I read research, posts, and online articles, even picked up a book, 'Carrying a little bit extra"... all about the plus size pregnancy. Extra fat cells release a substance that is like synthetic estrogen that can really screw with your reproductive system. And thats just the beginning.... there are a whole host of "syndomes" that I became familiar with... Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and others, that are all reasons why overweight women take longer to conceive.

So, when Erik and I went off to the fertility doctor, I was sure it was my body that was failing us. So, despite all good things including tests results showing no problems, I still believed it was my imperfect body that was the problem. Every test, every doctor, every thing was saying my body was normal. I didn't believe it.

My whole pregnancy I was in denial. I never looked classically pregnant. In fact, until I was about 7 months, it wasn't even obvious I was pregnant at all. No one asked me in public, "when are you due?" I was one of those pregnant girls that most people looked at and wondered, "Is she pregnant or just fat?" Some women embrace their baby bump. For me, it was my same old bump but with the ability to kick back.

I got into the habit of being vocal about my pregnancy. Adding pregnancy comments to conversations so that the question was subtly answered. Each doctor visit I went in thinking that this was the visit that I would be diagnosed with gestational diabetes or the baby would be big because I was big, or ______________ (fill in the blank).

But it never happened. Ultimately the diagnosis wasn't at all related to my weight. Preeclampsia is just a condition some girls get. They don't know why. Xanthe was a small to average baby. My body tried its darndest to deliver my little girl, but when it couldn't, and I was getting sick, we did deliver by C-section. I have to add, when you are my size, your chances for a c-section increase. I knew that too.

Part of me didn't think my body would be able to do it. And somewhat normally too. In the recovery room, they brought Xanthe to me. I told them I wanted to try to breastfeed as soon as possible. They laid Xanthe on my chest. I had wires everywhere and she had IVs too. Erik helped move the wires out of the way, and lo and behold, Xanthe latched on to my nipple and began to suckle. It was the first moment of my body really impressing me. Our nursing relationship is exclusive and lasting to this day. So exclusive in fact, that Xanthe cries at the sight of a bottle. She likes my body THAT much.

Its eye opening to me that Erik & I have created this little person, and that this body, imperfect and large, continues to sustain her life. It makes me realize that I should be taking better care of it, and appreciating it more, despite its imperfections.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

So you know you can't dance.

I admit it. Last summer, I went to the So You Think You Can Dance tour. Even worse, I went with my husband, age 35, and my parents, ages 65 and 66. We had GREAT seats, on the floor, what a view! And I distinctly remember thinking we were the only one there who didn't bring one token child to make it acceptable. We weren't acceptable, but man, what a guilty pleasure.

So, I am super excited to see a new season of my favorite reality show. I think I love it because it is so out of my element. It is graceful and coordinated and purposeful and technical. I am pretty much a bull in a china shop. I doesn't take much to get me hooked though..... I have seen my share of Real World marathons, Survivor, Temptation Island, Paradise Hotel, Jon & Kate plus 8, and my other favorite, Deadliest Catch (I am a Sig girl). Erik says I like shows where people can die.. but thats another blog. I have even learned from Mythbusters that bulls in a china shop aren't as destructive as you would think. But I still know I can't dance.

There is something bittersweet about the new Dancing season... this little screen-in-screen in my head has me realizing that my evening of adult-themed television is dying, and very soon, our little kung pao shrimp will rule every aspect of the Lewis household.

If our lives were a reality show, this month would have been something. Bottle refusals, trips to the Arboretum having forgotten the stroller, screaming fits, laughter, coo-ing, and poo-ing. Tired nights of Erik and I stumbling down the hall to replace the pacifier or night feeds. Mara dragging herself into her office, trying to sound knowledgeable on conference calls that have no real effect on the world, but are all important to my continued employment. Erik would be doing homework, preparing for graduation and stressing about not having his dream job lined up. You would see two companions working hard to maintain the love in a relationship stressed with little sleep and changing demands. You would see frustration, joy, love and fear. That is our dance.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kung Pao Shrimp

I should preface this post by saying that we haven't seen Kung Fu Panda.... but we've been inspired.

Erik has taken to calling Xanthe the Kung Pao Shrimp. She loves to kick and punch, and she can be really strong! She is a little thing, weighing in at 4 months at only 13 lbs, 1 oz, and usually dressed in pink! So, she definitely is shrimp-like. Today, she had her first swim in the pool.. and like both of her parents, she loved it. She was kicking and floating. I see lots of laps of freestyle in her future. She is a feisty, pink, pinchy baby with a congested and crustacean nose.. a definite kung pao shrimp.

1 lb. shelled and deveined fresh medium or small shrimp
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
5 tablespoons lite soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark Oriental sesame oil*
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or Chinese chili sauce*
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sake* or dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 3 thin strips lemon zest
1/2 medium red pepper thinly sliced and cut in half
1 can baby corn, 3 oz. to 4 oz. dry weight
2 medium carrots thinly sliced
4 oz. sugar peas
1 3.5 oz. package fresh enoki mushrooms or 1 cup dried and reconstituted shitaki mushrooms
1/2 ounce salted peanuts
cooking spray

1. Shrimp Marinade: Combine 1 clove crushed or pressed garlic in a bowl with 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, chili sauce or flakes and shrimp; Let marinate 15 to 30 minutes.
2. For Sauce: Mix remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, teaspoon sesame oil, lemon juice, sake or sherry, sugar, bouillon and cornstarch in small bowl and set aside.

3. Lightly spray a non stick or stick-resistant wok or large skillet with cooking spray and preheat on medium-high. Crush remaining clove of garlic and add to wok or skillet with scallions, zest, and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove garlic and set aside in large serving dish or platter.

4. Par cook carrots in microwave for 60 to 90 seconds, carrots should remain slightly crunchy. If microwave is not available, lightly coat wok or skillet with cooking spray and stir fry carrots until barely tender, about 5 minutes. If wok or skillet begins to dry out, add a few tablespoon of water and continue to cook. Transfer carrots to the dish holding garlic, ginger and onion mixture.

5. Lightly re-spray wok or skillet with cooking spray and add snow peas and pepper; stir fry until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to serving dish.

6. Lightly re-spray wok or skillet with cooking spray and add shrimp with marinade; stir fry until shrimp begin to turn pink, approximately 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds or until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and transfer vegetables to skillet; add mushrooms, corn, peanuts and noodles to wok or skillet and gently toss all ingredients together. Remove from heat; transfer to dish and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings at 162 calories; 5.8 grams total fat; 0.7 gram saturated fat; 87 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrate; 1.3 grams dietary fiber; 15 grams protein; 618 milligrams sodium.

*These items can be found at your local Oriental market and are available in the specialty food sections of most larger supermarkets.

Sesame Noodles

1 recipe Sesame Noodles
6 oz. Oriental noodles, capellini, vermicelli, etc., broken in half
1 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dark Oriental sesame oil*

1. Mix chicken base or bouillon with water, add sesame oil and set aside.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, rinse and drain well. While noodles are draining, lightly spray a non-stick or stick-resistant pan with cooking spray and preheat on medium for 2 minutes. Add noodles to pan with chicken broth mixture. Stir-fry until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 2/3 cup servings at approximately 140 calories each; 1.5 gram total fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 28 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams dietary fiber; 4 grams protein; 57 milligrams sodium.

Recipes: from the cookbook, Lighten Up -- The Art of Low Fat Gourmet Cooking, by Mary E. Ross

A digital government conversion

Have you seen the February 2009 digital TV conversion advertisements? They seem to be on multiple times during the prime time lineup. If you fail to have a TV manufactured in the last 30 years, or don't have cable... if you have RABBIT ears... you might loose your TV signal. Heck, if you have rabbit ears, you should be happy you have any signal at all, and running water for that matter.... but I digress...

Our government is spending how much money, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, running advertisements during prime time about a TV conversion that is going to happen NEXT year. The change may have a "detrimental" effect on a subset of Americans that still live with rabbit ears. I am not a raging liberal... I am not a liberal at all but really - Are there not more pressing problems for the American congress than the 2009 digital TV conversion?

Its just highlights the ridiculousness of the politics that take place in Washington. But then, the cynical part of me thinks - isn't TV one of our nations priorities? For many, I am sure it is. That cynicism makes me want to do is chuck my 42' plasma out my two story condo window. But then, my daughter would miss Playhouse Disney, and we can't have that.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

If blogs be the diaries of the future, write on..........

I used to keep diaries. Sweet little patterned books that held the stories of my teenage world. Self absorbed diatribes of who I like, what was said, explorations, rejections and inspections. Into college, I let my diary become my place for examination... did this happen really as I remember it? Lets check the entry.. oh, right... thats how it happened. Why did it matter?

It matters because, I am now 31.. I still feel like a teenager. I will completely forget how old I am, and when walking through the mall.. look at 18, 20, 22 year olds.... well, I guess that's how old they are, and think that I still look like them. Just a split second. Then I will realize, they look at me, and what they must think.. that sad lady. Even though I still wear basically what I wore in college, and my hair is basically the same as it always was... I look, well... worn. The same way that the pages of my diaries are. Worn with review and reliving... worn with wonder at missed opportunities, fears and loves....

Several months ago, I happened upon those diaries. And my favorite diary covered in horses with unlined blank pages the 1998-99 diary from my year abroad at the University of Durham. That year, I spent many cold winter weeks angsting in Berlin over the Christmas break. An orange pen fit my mood those days. Many many pages of my diary had been penned in orange. Memories of cafes, trains, and kebobs. But time had stolen the ink away... I opened my diary, anxious for a look, a sweet memory of my youth.

The pages were blank. I felt like I was suffering from emotional Alzheimer's. Those days were gone, someone else lived them, someone else wrote them down to make them realer... and now, someone else was remembering them. Blank pages.

But blank pages linger in my future too. And like the past, those will be worth writing down as well.