Friday, February 29, 2008

Who Wins

One blog I read through my aggregator is The Rejector ("I don't hate you. I just hate your query letter.") and she had an interesting post yesterday (read: post I find fascinating in its dissimilarity to the way I see things) about The Academy Awards.

It got me thinking about genres in general, and back to the disagreements I've had with a couple of readers about relative values of genre fiction.

Here's basically how I feel about genres in novels, movies, and food.

I believe that there's excellent writing and storytelling that transcends genre, and it's often called "literary fiction" when it does so. There are so many examples of this. Gregory Maguire springs to mind, but there are plentiful historical examples as well. Lewis Carroll?

But with writing that's similar to what's typical within a genre, I fall back on a food analogy.

Sometimes I like to eat candy and sweets. Sometimes, I want an actual meal, but I feel more like a cheeseburger than a platter of steamed asparagus. Likewise, sometimes I might read typical genre fiction.

There's nothing wrong with it! There's tremendous creativity in speculative fiction, and sometimes really ground-breaking stuff starts there and works its way into more mainstream discussion.

I haven't seen every movie nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, in any given year. But I usually make an effort to see a few of them, including the one that wins, even if they fall well outside what I would normally choose to see on a rare night out at the movies (escapism and fun is what I'm typically looking for in a movie, not an uncomfortable challenge).

But the fact remains that when I've seen a really good movie, even if I found it uncomfortable at the time or unappealing in advance, I'm never sorry afterwards.

And after I eat a good, healthy meal, my body feels enriched and well-nourished.

It is likewise with fiction for me. I hated Madame Bovary. Hated it! But I've read it several times, and it sticks with me in a healthy-meal kind of way. It took Flaubert 10 years to write that first chapter.

Is there not some objective difference between writing like that and a mass market thriller/mystery/western/romance/fantasy/chick lit novel that an author churned out in a few weeks of work?

All can be good writing, all can be valuable contributions to society. But there is, I believe, in art, a level that speaks to greater human truths rather than just moments of entertainment. (Obviously, a love/sex analogy also springs to my mind here, as well as some examples from within the art world.)

There's nothing wrong with seeking entertainment, or with seeking to provide it.

But I'm glad that there are people out there who are looking beyond a clever punchline, a contagious chemistry, a cool special effect. I'm glad that there are writers and artists and filmmakers who strive to make minds open and grow in new and exciting ways, to serve nutritious food.

(In case you were wondering, I love that mixed metaphor. It's my little inside joke, me not taking myself too seriously. That's my sense of humor, poking fun at myself, but I'm sure most of you know that by now!)

Does anyone really think that Spiderman 3 deserved to win Best Picture, just because a lot of people saw it? I guess so.

Edited to clarify: The Rejector seems to be suggesting that it's pure Academy snobbishness that the year's highest grossing film (I'll take her word for it that it's Spiderman 3) wasn't nominated for best picture.

My point isn't really about genre, or even length of time it takes to create. It's that I don't believe that commercial success is the sole indicator of what's good.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jumping Through Hoops Sucks

"OK, fine, I'll have my baby at Big, Urban, Major University-Affiliated Hospital, rather than Closer-to-Home Extension Hospital within the same system. But only if I won't have medical students or residents poking at me."

"Oh, you won't be a teaching case. You have good insurance."

This is a representation of an actual exchange I had with my doctor while I was pregnant with Ellie. Because of her known and unknown medical conditions, the doctor wanted me to deliver in a hospital that had more support for higher-risk births. It was the right decision and I had a good experience with the hospital, although I did choose to have Ada at Closer-to-Home Extension Hospital, where I also had a good experience.

I've never had a problem getting the health care I need - with the singular exception of the short period between when I expired from my parents' insurance and the corporate coverage from my first job kicked in, during which time a UTI became a kidney infection. Nonetheless, one of the issues I've been watching this election year is health care. I think it's horrifying that so many Americans do not have sufficient health insurance, and I think it's exciting that there's a real possibility of addressing that issue in the near future.

Today, however, I had an experience that shook my faith in the prospect of the single-payer system, just a little bit. The story surrounding this experience is not mine to tell, so I will be a little vague.

A good friend of mine is a little bit pregnant. Today, she started cramping and bleeding, and she just knew that she was miscarrying. She was understandably distraught. Not knowing what else to do, but unable to sit around doing nothing but freaking out, she hurried over to her doctor's office.

Where we waited, and waited, and waited. The clinical medical assistants and nurses were wonderful, offering hugs and support but no false comfort. Eventually, an administrative medical assistant with, er, somewhat less bedside manner came in to explain that with my friend's government-sponsored health insurance - a plan she had no role in choosing as her government employer chose for her - she couldn't be seen as an obstetrical patient, let alone given an ultrasound or exam, without a referral from her primary care doctor. It's worth noting that she sees her OB/GYN at least annually for an exam and other gynecological care, but hadn't seen her primary care doctor in quite some time.

I called and pestered and cajoled, to little avail. Despite the insurance company's assurances to the contrary, and the primary care doctor's immediate action to call in a referral to the insurance company, no referral had been received by the OB's office when we left a couple of hours later.

Fortunately, they were eventually willing to proceed without the formal referral, after receiving a verbal referral from the primary care physician's office. An assistant had been on hold for hours with the insurance company by that point, trying to complete the process.

What if I hadn't been there to be the assertive bully? I have no doubt that my friend's medical office would be eventually taken care of her, but the whole process was horrible and excruciating and unnecessary.

The end result was good. The referral will come through, and my friend's insurance will pay for the medical care she needs. And she did not miscarry today. (I too had threatened miscarriages with both of my pregnancies. They're not uncommon, but that doesn't make them less scary.)

But we need to make sure that we fix a lot of the kinks in the current systems before we adopt them on a larger scale.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RSS - No Longer Greek To Me

I'm learning to love Google Reader. And now I see why blog comments here have decreased though readership is relatively flat. It turns out that, probably, readership has continued its previous trajectory and more people are subscribing via an RSS feed. This is a good illustration of a larger trend that I was very slow to catch on to.

I know that when I visit a blog, I'm more likely to comment than when I'm reading a daily digest via my iGoggle homepage, and commenting would require a click-through to the actual site. On the other hand, I can read a lot more blogs a lot more efficiently through a reader, and my blog-reading time is quite limited.

So I've compromised. I read only professionally-related blogs via my Google reader, and catch up on other blogs (personal blogs and political blogs) occasionally as time/interest permit. This is working great for me so far.

What about you? Do you subscribe to feeds? And, if so, which reader do you use?

Monday, February 25, 2008


I always thought that the term coitus interruptus referred to the withdrawal method, a form of birth control statistically more likely to result in the production of offspring when compared to other common forms of birth control.

Little did I know that coitus interruptus really refers to a common state of affairs after the children have been born.

On a tangentially related note, I found a nifty quote from Lactantius on when I was curious about the Roman Catholic Church's position on ci: Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife" (Divine Institutes 6:20).

Nice! If you're poor: no sex for you! Sex for the wealthy only! I am fortunate to be affluent enough to have been able to have sex two times so far! Oh, and also to be Protestant.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I have cute kids. You can't see them right now, because of our faulty hard drive situation, so I'll try to relate their anecdotal cuteness as best I can in a sans serif font.

Ellie still has a few really cute toddlerisms, and it will be a bittersweet occasion when I realize that she's left them behind forever. I think it's adorable that she calls Mickey Mouse's best friend and loyal companion "Plu-dog." I am intrigued by the way she says blanket: "My pickely!" And my friend loves the way Ellie says her name. "Mommy! Mommy! E-widdi-beff is here!" Already, Mommy is sometimes Mom. Surely it was only a year ago that I was still Mama?

Ada has her own little adorablenesses. Like her lifelong obsession with underwear. It's always been a challenge to keep her away from underpants she finds in laundry baskets, both clean and dirty. This weekend, we gave up. She sees her sister wearing big girl underpants, of course. Then she brings me a pair. "Help please! Help please!" She wants to wear them. And why not, I say?

Sure, she just turned 13 months old and her tiny bottom slips one cheek at a time into the potty seat - she's not even big enough to sit on the little potty chair without falling in! And she looks completely ridiculous toddling all over the house wearing a pair of Ellie's clean underpants over her own pants and diaper. But it makes her so, so happy. Ada wins! Underpants for the baby!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ice Storm

Every January, St. Louis gets a big ice storm. I've been worried that we'd miss it this year, but it was just late! I suppose it's a little odd that I love the ice storm, but I really do. Unless it knocks out the power.

We have a cozy house stocked with plenty of comfort foods. As long as we have electricity, we'll be fine here for a few days.

I love the way the world outside is so silent, glistening, pristine, deadly. It's like the trees and telephone wires and mailboxes have gotten all dressed up in their formal wear and bling. It's the calm after the storm. It's a celebration of life to take little children outside to experience such an event, and it will be Ada's first one.

I love the enforced quietude of being iced in. There's no real pressure to go anywhere or do anything constructive; it's a winter storm! The only pressure is to drink hot chocolate and pamper yourself a bit.

So, for dinner tonight, I made two pizzas. The first was on whole wheat dough, covered with a light Parmesan Alfredo sauce (Rob, this was originally intended for you) topped with some fresh baby spinach flash-fried in a touch of EVOO and mozzarella cheese. The second was more traditional: red sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella on an Italian white crust. The girls ate, and loved, the white pizza. I served broccoli on the side, drizzled with more of the Parmesan Alfredo, but didn't sweat it too much, since there was spinach on the pizza.

What? A food blog, from me?! Surely not. Tomorrow, the plan is for a homemade chicken pot pie, as long as there's power and Paul's here to entertain the girls while I cook comfort food, and I'll try to spare you the details. Pictures of girls on ice will hopefully follow . . . as soon as a new-new external hard drive arrives to replace our still-under-warranty drive that holds all such precious commodities and is currently reluctant to function (we do have the photos stored elsewhere as well).

Writing Update

I've been reading a lot of (literary) agent blogs lately, as motivation and education. They do a lot of contests, and I am excited to participate. But I want to be ready with a completed novel and solid query before I start submitting anything.

This year's NaNo project, The Really Good Guy, was not my first attempt at a novel. I intend to finish that book, and I intend for it to be really good. So while I pluck away at it as the mood strikes, and I have very good notes for what I want to change and where/how I want it to grow, it's not my primary writing focus right now. I don't want to push on through a finishing/polishing/revising process when I'm not feeling passionate about the work, just to have it "done." I want it done right, which means that I need a little more practice at this whole novel-writing gig before I go back to work on The Really Good Guy full time. It's too important to me for it to be my training novel.

In the meantime, I'm back at work on an earlier attempt at a novel, Seek Ye First. Long-time blog readers might have read early chapters of an early draft of this one, before I petered out a few years ago. I had trouble finding my character's voice, and was uninspired by the mystery. (This was a real problem, in what was supposed to be a "cozy mystery" novel.)

As Paul and I were working down in our basement last week, I was moving around both my writing references and my Agatha Christie collection, when, bam! Inspiration. I've been working on parts of this book subconsciously for a while now, and have been having more success with the main character's voice. The mystery, however, is only now coming into focus and beginning to excite me. So we'll see where this goes! I'm not revising; I'm starting over from scratch. I keep telling myself that I'm not throwing all that previous hard work away; it's all there in my head somewhere, enriching this new draft. I hope.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fighting Dirty

Voters have been clear: we don't want a negative campaign; we want to talk about issues, not in-fighting. So the candidates are trying to rise above the fray, but that doesn't mean that there's no fray. Before there's a VP candidate to sic on the opponent, there are familial surrogates to do the dirty work. JFK had RFK, which allowed him to seem so golden. Hillary has Bill. And . . . Barack has Michelle:

"Our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."

Damn. In her defense, she was talking about how she and her husband put their children first, how even in the midst of all this campaigning, she's home every night to put them to bed, there every morning to get them off to school. She claims that she was only talking about her own family, and not taking a swipe at Clinton.

I hope that's so, because if it was a back-handed suggestion that because Clinton's husband committed adultery, she is not fit to be President, well, I think that's ugly on a number of levels.

When is the Fourth Estate going to respect what voters keep saying they want? If we want news, we have no choice but to continue consuming what they spew out, but this whole "attack" hype was generated by media clips of Michelle Obama's comment, divorced from its context, labeled as a probable swipe at Senator Clinton. Yes, it got my attention . . . but left me feeling disgusted by the cheap trick once I'd read the context.

Then again, while it's true that in context she was talking about her own family, in an election like this one, the obvious comparison is always implied.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Motivational Reading

I have always been a book addict. When I was a child and punishment proved necessary, my mother would send me to my room, but only after removing whichever books I happened to be reading at the time. Or, worse, she'd send me outside to play. Without my book. In college, I did not allow myself any non-assigned fiction during the semester, because I knew that I'd just get lost in a book and neglect my studies (which, frankly, didn't need any more neglecting).

Balance was not impossible for me, just challenging. I was, after all, successful in a career for ten years, and it wasn't the sort of career that smiled upon the reading of novels at work.

After Ellie was born, I suddenly had no time to read, and I didn't pick up a single novel for six months. I underwent a lot of major life changes during that period, including becoming a mother, having a Very Sick Child, and temporarily leaving my career, but perhaps the simple fact that I was not reading was the most damaging to me.

So when Ellie was six months old, I joined a friend's book club, and it felt like I had surfaced for air. I quickly found time to read not just the selected books, but other fiction too. Sure, I slept less, but it was worth it. Oh, so very worth it. Eventually, I started a second book club, which has a completely different feel and reads very different books. In both groups, we rotating "hosting" duties every month - though we don't always meet at our homes - and the host selects the book. Here's what my two book clubs read in 2007. Can you guess which one I joined and which one I started up from scratch?

Book Club One
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Nice Girls Finish First by Alesia Holliday
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Book Club Two
Night by Elie Wiesel
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Birds of America: Stories by Lorrie Moore
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Dangerous Life of Altar Boys by Chris Fuhrman
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Bearing Witness by Michael A. Kahn
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

I'm not giving up either book club (though I might miss a few titles here and there) but I'm thinking I might try to dial the reading back a little, in order to squeeze in more time for the sleeping and the writing, and probably the exercising, too. Alas. Perhaps Newsweek, Parents, and - gasp - television will have to feel the pruning shears.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Athletic Sex

First of all, let me just say that we are having a wonderful long weekend visit with Paul's sister, her husband, and their beautiful baby girl. And that has nothing at all to do with this post.

Except that my sister-in-law bought a Cosmo magazine for the plane ride, which we've all been perusing and discussing throughout the weekend, a pastime that has given me some very interesting dreams. What a weird, weird magazine. I hadn't looked at it in years, it seems, and either it's changed or I have.

So, anyway, I was reading one of many articles that seemed to take for granted the superiority of multi-positional sex, when I decided that I disagree with the entire premise.

Variety is the spice of life and all that, but I really don't get the point of what they seemed to be extolling.

I like many different flavors of ice cream, and sometimes I might even enjoy two different scoops in one bowl, but for the most part I don't think that my ice cream eating experience is enriched by having a small bite of each of several different flavors, every single time I eat ice cream.

I like many of the clothes in my closet, but sometimes I'm more into the jeans and some days I'm more into the dresses with tights. Sure, there might be days when I start out in sweats and change into slacks later, but I don't think I'd enjoy my clothes more if I wore every single outfit I own - or even just several of them - every day.

I think of sex as a fun activity, for a few really good reasons, but I don't see it like a yoga workout. Why is it supposed to be so much better, so much more exciting, if it's choreographed, with position changes every minute or two? In fact, sometimes, in my experience, consistency for several minutes is where it's at, baby.

But that doesn't make for as exciting a movie, where we expect the scene to develop and change rapidly. I suspect that this is yet another way porn has changed what's seen as "good," or even, "normal" sex.

I think I deserve some sort of weird blogging award for getting from visiting family to porn in one post.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


On Christmas Day, 1929, my grandparents were married. Shortly before Thanksgiving 1987, my grandmother died. For the next 18-1/2 years, my grandfather kissed her picture before bed every night, and periodically shared his thoughts with her throughout each day, as he'd done for all the 58 years of their marriage.

In some ways, theirs was a very modern marriage. In others, it was completely timeless, and seems far removed from the stresses and tensions of modern life. (That is illusion, I'm sure. It's not like the 1930's were stress-free.)

Before our wedding, Paul and I wrote a statement about what marriage meant to us, which my mother read aloud during the ceremony. I remember the writing process so clearly: my early drafts sounding so academic, precise, and dry, all very big picture, while Paul's thoughts were all anecdotal. The final result was, of course, an amalgamation, as we are as a couple.

In all our youthful exuberance, these are snippets of what we felt about marriage on the eve of our own wedding: "Marriage is a partnership between two people who, as a couple, are greater than they would be individually," and, "A married couple shows affectionate caring for the times when one simply needs the other to listen and say that everything will work out alright in the end."

With examples like all four sets of our grandparents, how could we have expected any less of ourselves?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So often, we make decisions based on what "feels" right. And, if we've been taught by good examples and have a good moral underpinning, this method of deciding can often serve us well. But, if there are kinks in the system, they can be next to invisible to us, since they don't "feel" wrong.

I think that I conflate people with possessions. No, not in that way! The other way. It's more like treating things as people than treating people as things.

I come from a grand tradition of people who keep things. My grandfather once had to move his study to the opposite side of the house because their enormous old home was settling unevenly due to the weight of all of his books.

As they grew older and moved into smaller places, my grandparents did have to downsize, but in the end they were all left with so many treasures, things that they'd collected throughout their long lives or inherited from their own parents. Many of those things are now with my parents, or with my sisters and me.

My parents' basement is currently unnavigable, despite their also having at least one storage unit packed full of stuff somewhere. And most of it is really great stuff!

I also come from a long tradition of people who are extremely loyal, who stay married forever, who measure friendships in decades. And, in my mind, I think that these two traits have become entwined, indistinguishable, merged.

I have a friend who laughs in disbelief whenever I start a sentence with, "I stumbled across an old journal from junior high, and . . . "

I know lots of people who aren't overwhelmed by clutter. But those who have perfectly neat homes, with no overflowing files, shelves of old textbooks, labeled plastic storage bins containing elementary school perfect attendance awards, high school homecoming court sashes, and pre-marriage/kids Halloween costumes - well, I can't help but feel like they're missing something critical, like they've ripped off little pieces of themselves and discarded them along the way.

Clearly, I'm in real trouble if we're ever hit by fire or natural disaster. Without these tangible bits of my history, who on earth would I be?

Fizzle: this is where the should-be-unrelated synapse fires, the faulty logic is born. A part of my brain thinks, "He just lets things go when they get messy; this is why he's been married so many times." "This is why they go through friendships like I go through underwear." (That's just a figure of speech. Of course I still have underwear from college! You don't?)

That illogic stopped me cold when I noticed it recently, which made me work through the whole chain of thoughts until I found the break. Clearly, I attach way too much importance to stuff, but not in an I-must-have-that-Birkin-bag kind of way.

My husband would like me to add, here, that I tend to keep little bits of information in my head the same way I keep old greeting cards and address books.

In other connection news, since the ban on bubble baths has been strictly enforced, Ellie's symptoms have have cleared up. No more accidents!

The girls have my cold, though. (And I still have it too.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Getting Things Done

Did you know that Kozy Shack makes sugar free tapioca? They do, and it's pretty good. (I gave up sugar for Lent. And I have decided that Sundays don't count. After all, they're not counted in the 40 days.) Resuming exercise will have to wait until this blasted fever is finally gone gone gone. Is bronchitis supposed to be a chronic condition? I feel like a walking plague, especially since my girls seem to be getting colds.

Despite all being a bit off, we had a very productive weekend here. On Saturday morning, Paul and I took the girls to a Parents as Teachers event that they both loved, and Sunday we all went to church. Other than that, we spent most of our time working around the house.

We cleaned the bathrooms, dusted and cleaned the front rooms, did lots of laundry (and folded it, and put it away) and organized throughout the rest of the house, especially in the girls' rooms. We also spent hours downstairs in the basement, slowly putting it back together after its big painting experience a couple of weeks ago.

(There was also writing, good stuff, but that story can wait for another day.)

We're supposed to have company next weekend, though I'll almost be surprised if they still want to come. (Sickness, violence, bad weather, who could blame them for wanting to stay home?!) Hey, Monroes, Kirkwood is still a lovely, safe place, if an imperfect one.

But if they decided to surprise us by showing up a few days early, we'd be ready for them. Our house is in decent shape! And no last-minute rushing-around necessary; we were just keeping up with things like responsible adult people. Imagine that.

Out of Chaos, Hope.
Build for Life.

Two Sermons

There has to be a first next post, after that last one. It could be a cute picture of my children, it could be an update on Sarahlynn: Operation Get Your Shit Together, or it could be something serious. But there has to be a first one, and it's going to be now, so I'll recap the sermons from church this morning.

Our minister is a very emotional guy, and he has mastered the art of being able to talk coherently while crying, a trick I'll never learn. He didn't cry this morning during his sermon, until his voice broke a little on the last word. Throughout the sermon, his voice was rough, his tone angry.

"I am not ready to stand up here and give a message of hope, of reassurance; that message will have to wait for another day."

He spoke passionately against the use of the word "war" as a few in the Meacham Park community have used it, "a seeming defense of an indefensible act." He spoke of misunderstanding and reconciliation, of thoroughly cleaning our wounds before allowing them to heal over.

It was a good message, if not the one I expected to hear today. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, and left me feeling ruffled.

Then came Communion, a wonderful experience on a traumatic weekend with a packed church, sitting quietly in the beautiful sanctuary, listening to the organ, watching hundreds of my fellow Presbyterians proceeding up the aisle to receive their grape-juice-dipped wafers, waiting my turn in peace.

Our associate pastor is a friend of mine, and she has one of the most soothing voices I've ever heard. Her communion prayer was quite long, almost a second homily, and I savored every moment of it. I no longer remember what she said, though I remember nodding along at the time. Afterwards, I was immediately left with a feeling of safety, of home. This prayer felt a little like a mother patting her fearful child on the back, murmuring words whose tone is more important than their substance, though the substance is there, for those ready to absorb it. For the rest of us, we could sit quietly, listen, and feel like there was someone taking care of us.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Local Tragedy

We chose our little community very carefully. It's not without its problems, but it's a charming little place. Kirkwood is an old, beautiful community, established in 1853. There's a mixture of large houses and small in mixed neighborhoods, lots of homes with great character, tall shade trees, a thriving downtown area with shops and restaurants, and a distinct small town community feel in this quaint enclave in the St. Louis metro area.

But no place is perfect. There's one particular area of Kirkwood, Meacham Park, which is a traditionally African American community, and there have been tensions between residents of that area and city officials, for various reasons, some (in my opinion) quite valid.

One neighborhood resident grew particularly enraged about what he perceived as his ill treatment by the city council. (A federal judge disagreed with his claims.) After acting out at several meetings, he attended a council meeting tonight (perhaps in response to that judge's ruling) and made a final stand.

As the mayor began his opening remarks after the pledge of allegiance, this man shot and killed a police officer outside city hall. He went inside to where the meeting was taking place, and shot and killed another police officer, then opened fire on council members and city officials. 30 people were in attendance at the meeting, including a reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, so news of what happened got out quickly.

He shot seven people, killing five, before being killed by police. The two survivors are a local reporter, possibly hit in the hand by a ricochet, and the mayor, who is in critical condition at a local hospital.

Kirkwood authorities have decided not to release the names of the deceased tonight, to give them time to notify families, though our local Fox affiliate television station has irresponsibly shown pictures of those killed, not saying so explicitly, but drawing the obvious inference. (As we know, only two who were shot survived, X and Y, and we also know that these three people were also shot, so . . . )

It's horrifying that this happened so close to home, in our safe community. It's almost unbearably tragic to think of the families touched directly by this tragedy. It is also more personal than is comfortable. (And what distance would ever be comfortable, I wonder?) I read unofficial minutes from council meetings and subcommittee meetings, which helps me feel like I know some of these people more personally than I do. And all reports of what happened tonight mentioned the name of the Kirkwood Public Works Director Ken Yost as one of the shot. Ken is far more than just a name to me.

Ken was the webmaster for our church, Kirkwood First Presbyterian. He ran the amazing local recycling center and was an environmental activist. His wife is a church staff member, in charge of new members and mission work. She was one of the first people we got to know in our congregation when we joined more than 8 years ago, and they were both at our wedding. They are incredible people who walk the walk, and my heart is so full of pain for Ken's wife and son.

I feel a tendency to ramble on and on, a lack of perspective, and an inability to edit my thoughts properly into a cohesive message.

Someone I knew and respected a great deal was killed tonight. It's horrible. My prayers are with the families of all those killed and injured tonight. I feel powerless, and my prayers feel insufficient. I want to be actively doing something, anything to help. Unfortunately, there's little to be done now.


Viral upper respiratory infection with fever, bad cough, etc. No antibiotics necessary, which is good. Wait it out, which is hard.

What shall we do this afternoon, kiddos? Videos? Or, perhaps, videos? And what do you mean that you can't take yourselves to the potty yet? Alas.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Maybe Another Day

I should have quit smoking years ago. I don't actually smoke, but this week I sure sound like I do. Cough-cough-hack-hack-moan! Have I mentioned that being sick is a lot less fun when you're the mama? Also, I'm pretty bad at knowing when it's time to go to the doctor. I feel like I often err on the side of not going soon enough (especially with myself) and then over-correcting (especially with the kids).

I took 5 trips to the pediatrician's office in January, after having only a couple of sick-child visits all last year. On the other hand, when she was 2-1/2 Ellie had pneumonia for weeks before I took her in. Her only obvious symptoms then were a cough and an occasional low-grade fever.

Today, I sound like a wounded seal who happens to have a slight fever. Bark. Bark. Whimper. Sort of like our electoral process, actually.

Anyway, Ellie's been having accidents for the last few days, and she occasionally grabs herself and fusses a few minutes after going. I was planning to call her pediatrician about a UTI, when I learned that Paul has recently started giving Ellie bubble baths again. Apparently, the warnings that regular bubble baths aren't that great for little girls wear off after time, and do need to be repeated. If only there were indicators, like on my toothbrush bristles. So here's hoping that once the bubble baths have stopped, and end-of-bath rinsing in clear water commences, symptoms will clear up. Poor kid. I've really been frustrated with her about the accidents (which often come shortly after assuring me that she doesn't need to go) because I'm a jerk mom like that.

All things considered, I think I'll wait on calls to the doctor for both of us. Just like we'll probably be waiting a while to find out who the Democrats are going to nominate for president.

When Ellie was 12 months old, they actually let me take her to the polling place dressed like this.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday Is Now!

As it turns out, a confused - or malicious - squirrel was chewing through "the line" as it ran from the telephone pole to the house. New line, no more phone static and vastly improved internet access. Voila! Now my Blogger spellchecker isn't working, though, so please try to politely ignore my typos.

By this time tomorrow night, the Democrat and Republican nominees for president will probably be decided. (If you live in one of the 24 states holding primary elections tomorrow/today: go vote! Vote! Seriously, vote! Isn't this almost as important as the SuperBowl, which 97.5 million people watched? Yes, it is. Trust me. It's still a silly game, but with far more meaningful consequences.)

The last six couples I talked to about the primary are split the same way Paul and I are. I'm planning to vote for Clinton; he's planning to vote for Obama. There's no political rankor in our home; both of us believe that both candidates are qualified and would do a good job. We each dithered back and forth between the two before landing where we have. It's still interesting that so many people we know are splitting this same way: women for Hillary, men for Barack. These are, for the most part, all liberal, progressive, pro-feminist, racism-is-baaaaad folk.

I too am excited by Obama's positive, energizing message. I'm very excited by the possibility of an African American president. I think it would be overwhelmingly wonderful to have a president named Barack Hussein Obama who spent several of his formative years in an Islamic nation.

Given all that, there are three main reasons why I've decided to vote for HRC tomorrow.
  1. I took that quiz I told you about, and it told me that I (surprisingly!) agree with Hillary on most of the big issues.
  2. I think that she has the experience to know how to work the system in the way that it needs to be worked in order to get things accomplished. I don't like that this system is there, but I think most new presidents have a learning curve as they realize how they must bargain with congress.
  3. While I was watching the pre-South Carolina debate, I had a visceral response to seeing Clinton on that stage, with Obama and Edwards, running the show for large chunks of the evening. I didn't think it would make such a big difference, but I felt something, watching someone who looks a little like me in that position. What would this say to girls - and boys - who grow up seeing this as normal, as a possibility?
Of course, I have some reservations, too.

Another interesting piece of this decision is Edwards/Kucinich/Dodd/Biden/Etc. My youngest sister and I find ourselves at odds with our parents over this issue. My parents like Edwards, and feel that he's electable. That might had made them decide to vote for him in their primary (had he not dropped out already) despite their being excited by the possibility of a female or African American president. To them, the big question is: who can win against the Republican candidate?

That's not the major issue for me. I'm more jaded. I've seen Democrats who aren't so different from Republicans. I am skeptical about how much good a president can really do. There wasn't a perfect (for me) white male candidate in the field. (In fact, HRC and Obama come as close to representing me as any other candidate.) Given that, I can't bring myself to vote for a white man who looks just like every single other president we've ever had. Sorry, Edwards.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

At Least I'll Go To Bed Before Midnight

. . . well, almost.

Our broadband internet connection is still leaving something to be desired. Like, you know, reliability. And the ability to download as well as upload. That sort of thing. I have no idea what's going on, but the problems have spread to our suddenly strangely crackly home phone, too. Time for a call to the phone company. Right, from the mobile phone. Let me just hop online and look up their phone number. Wait . . .

On a related note, I finally read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Doing so right after seeing Charlie Wilson's War made me think this: There's probably some sort of introductory/initiatory stuff that newly elected congressional representatives and senators must read/watch/sit through before beginning their first legislative sessions. I think that all members of the 111th United States Congress need to read these books before they start having any discussions involving budget and foreign policy.

We simply must learn from our mistakes. We simply must stop playing deadly games in others' yards, then going home, leaving nothing but our weaponry and a huge vacuum behind us.

Now let's see if I can post this . . .